Defeat the Enemies: Finish College on Time

A new website identifies four of the biggest culprits that are making it take longer and longer for youths to earn a college degree – and all of them can be overcome with a little initiative on the part of youth workers within the college access movement.

According to a video on the Jobs for the Future website– called Time to Completion — the four time-consuming culprits are:

1) Inadequate preparation.

2) Lack of information on what courses are needed to earn a degree or lack of space within required courses themselves.

3) Credits that don’t transfer when a student switches from one college to another.

4) The rising price of college, which is forcing more and more students to have to work, thereby taking away from the time they have for courses.

The narrator concludes by saying that institutions of higher learning and states need to do more to make a “clearer path to a college degree.”

That’s true, but there’s also an abundance of work for youth workers within the college access movement to do in this regard.

Lack of preparedness can be overcome with college prep. It’s not easy work, but there is an abundance of college access organizations on the scene that youths can turn to for help. One example would be this list of members of the National College Access Network. There are also federally-funded initiatives such as GEAR UP.

Lack of information can be eradicated by putting youths in contact with knowledgeable individuals, such as guidance and college admissions counselors, more experienced students or graduates, who can advise  on which courses are necessary. This was one of the main premises of a recent convention of National Association for College Admission Counseling. See Youth Today’s In Information Age, College Access Still Requires That Personal Touch.

As for the rising price of college, there may be little that youths and youth workers can do to curtail increasing tuitions. However, the price of college can at least be abated with a little hustle, especially as it relates to hitting up the library or getting on the Internet to search for scholarships and the like. There are also an abundance of books on the market that seek to help empower students on where to find scholarship money and financial aid.

About the only time-consuming culprit beyond students’ control is the non-transferability of credits from one school to another, and even that can be handled if there’s an organized movement that starts to lobby for change in this regard.

Bottom line: If these are the main enemies causing it to take more time to earn a college degree, these enemies are enemies that can be defeated. And identifying them was half the battle.

Jamaal Abdul-Alim covers College & Careers through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He can be reached at 


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