By Tricia Stern–

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A recent report by The Lumina Foundation states that need for college graduates is rising but students are finding it harder and harder to get their degree.

The 2010 census showed that only one in four students are enrolled fulltime in a four-year program. Only 58 percent of students will graduate in six years, while only 30 percent of community college students will graduate within three years. What makes it so hard for students to graduate?

On average, a student graduates with a bachelor’s degree with 120 credit hours. That means five classes per semester. If we were to follow the teachers’ studying guidelines, we would multiply the number of credit hours by three to figure out the total hours per week you should study for a single class, we would need to devote 45 hours to studying on top of the class time. How would anyone find time to do all of that plus have a job?

The answer is simple. They do not. In order to keep up with rising tuition costs, two-thirds of the student population work at least part-time in order to offset loans. Students are attempting to devote a fair amount of their time to studying, while also trying to balance jobs. Even more difficult are others who have families to raise while furthering their education. Consequently, they are forced to take fewer credit hours in order to keep their grades up and graduate with honors. These students are then forced to stay in college for more than four years, each year paying the same amount of full-time tuition.

As we have been told time and time again, a college degree is the ticket to the working world. It ensures us a comfortable, well paying job. Currently, 38.3 percent of Americans have at least an associate’s degree, which is an increase from the previous year. This has been a positive trend, and while each year the number of people with a degree has increased, it’s just not at the rate it should be. With a mere 0.2 percent increment each year, goals have been set to see this rise before the next census comes out.

The Big Goal set by the Lumina Foundation is for 60 percent of the population to hold a postsecondary education by 2025. If we continue on the slow trend we are on now, we will be short approximately 23 million graduates. And in five years, nearly 54 percent of Kentucky jobs will require further education.

The first goal Kentucky has set for itself, along with other states, is to encourage people who have started college to come back and complete it. The number of people who start college but do not finish more than double the number of people who complete their degrees.

At this rate, America is not producing enough college grads to keep up with the workforce. While juggling jobs, families and extracurricular activities, students find it hard to fit school into their schedule. Universities are going to have to start offering more flexible classes in order to keep students enrolled instead of cutting classes to cut costs. It is sad when a student starts college with a dream of earning a degree and a reliable job for their future, but cannot afford to attain that degree without being swamped with loans after graduation.

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