The college fun can’t last forever, but paying in-state tuition makes it last longer. According to University data, in-state students are more likely to stay on campus for an extra year or more, becoming what are commonly known as “super seniors.”
According to University statistics, 76.2 percent of out-of-state students who entered the University in fall 2001 graduated from the University in four years. Only 67.3 percent of in-state students residents did the same – an 8.9 percent difference between the two groups.
Paul Courant, a former University provost and an expert on higher education, said much of the discrepancy in graduation rates boils down to cost. He said most students who take longer than four years to graduate tend to be from Michigan because it costs almost three times as much for the out-of-state students to attend the University.
For an upper-division, in-state LSA student, tuition costs $5,793 per semester, compared with out-of-state tuition of $16,655 per semester.
Fifty-year LSA senior Carly Kaloustian, an in-state student, said the fact that it wasn’t “horribly expensive” to extend her collegiate stay by one year played a large role in her decision to come back.
“I would not be a fifth-year senior if I were paying out of state tuition,” she said.
Although the University’s degree programs are designed with the expectation that students will graduate in four years, the University’s senior vice provost of academic affairs Lester Monts said many students spend extra time at the University to take advantage of the different degree programs and extra-curricular activities available. It’s becoming increasingly common for students to have dual majors or minors, he said.
Kaloustian, who is majoring in English and Spanish and writing an honors thesis, said it would have been impossible for her to graduate in four years. Taking the extra year to finish her degree, she said, would also make her a more competitive candidate for graduate schools.
“Your level of preparedness bears very heavily on your placement in grad school,” she said.
Courant said the University has a higher four-year graduation rate than most other public institutions, but University students generally take longer to get their degrees than their peers at private colleges.
Monts said there are more fifth-year seniors at the University of Michigan than at private colleges because of the breadth of opportunities at the University.
“We offer 120 undergraduate majors, but a small liberal arts college would offer no more than 20 to 30 majors,” he said. “I think that’s one of the big advantages of a place like Michigan.”
Courant agreed, saying that while private school students might graduate in less time, University of Michigan students are met with a much wider array of programs.
“I think that the elite privates have a very strong norm of getting students out in four years,” he said. “The advising is organized like that. I think for Michigan the important goal is to give a rich array of opportunities that the university provides. But in some cases that leads to students taking a little bit longer.”
LSA and College of Engineering student Emily Demarco is in her fifth year at the University, majoring in both astronomy and aerospace engineering. Because she’s double majoring in two different colleges, she said, it would have been virtually impossible for her to graduate in four years.
“I knew that if I wanted to do it in four years, I would pretty much have to kill myself,” she said.
Instead of taking the maximum amount of credits every semester, she chose to take a lighter course load and become more involved on campus. Demarco is the editor in chief of the Michiganensian, the University’s yearbook.
Monts said getting involved in other campus activities is not uncommon for students who take extra time to graduate.
“There are many things that happen outside of the classroom that students become involved in,” Monts said. “That kind of experience is, in many cases, as important as some of the courses you take.”