Traditionally, college is expected to span just four years of a student’s life.
But graduation rates at CSUN have been fluctuating, while part-time rates have stayed consistent since 2009, according to the Office of Institutional Research.
On average, CSUN students who enrolled as first-time freshmen take approximately five years to graduate, compared to incoming transfer students from community colleges or other institutions who graduate in an average of three years after coming to CSUN, according to Dr. Bettina Huber, director of the Office of Institutional Research.
The National Center for Education Statistics conducted a study of 50 California colleges that offer bachelor degrees. CSUN is 46th on that list, beating out other universities like CSU Sacramento, CSU Los Angeles and the University of Phoenix.
“A key factor in the four-year graduation rate, in particular, is whether students are able to attend college full time, without having to hold down jobs at the same time,” Huber said.
“CSUN freshmen, many of whom come from families with limited financial needs, often have to work while attending college. As a result, they may need five to six years to complete their studies.”
Schools at the top of the list include Pomona College, Occidental College, Stanford University, Santa Clara University and Pepperdine University, which are private institutions.
“In assessing graduation rates, it is also important to consider the selectivity of the institutions in question. Institutions that have regional mandates, such as CSUN, tend to have lower graduation rates than many other institutions, simply because the university admits everyone in its local area who meets certain minimum criteria,” Huber said.
Some private institutions, such as Pomona, Occidental and Stanford, only enroll the top candidates who apply, according to Huber. Additionally, CSUN admits more students who need to take time-consuming remedial classes, which will also bring down the four year graduation rate.
“We accept many students as freshmen who are coming in unprepared. If they come to the campus needing preparation for the units required for their major, then it will add another year to their graduation plans,” said Cynthia Rawitch, CSUN’s vice provost.
The enrollment processes at both UC and CSU campuses come with stringent requirements, such as fulfilling certain courses at community colleges or having a certain grade point average when coming straight from high school.
At CSUN, students find there are impacted majors, requiring them to fulfill a certain sequence of prerequisites before they can graduate, with each department having its own set of requirements.
“(Requiring prerequisites is) one misstep in this process and easily that can set a student back a whole semester,” Rawitch said.
Ideally, students can take 15 units per semester and work around 20 hours a week to graduate in four years. But that is not the case with a majority of the student population.
The average load is 12 units or less, and students do not factor in taking summer or winter sessions to meet that four-year standard, Rawitch said.
Diligent planning should be incorporated into a student’s educational career, according to Will Sherman, 22, an applied mathematics major working on his two-year graduate degree after spending five years as an undergraduate.
“While it’s the responsibility of the students to make a plan to get out in four years, making a plan is useless if the student can’t get into the classes,” Sherman said. “It’s disturbing that there are larger schools with more students who can graduate their students quicker than CSUN.”
In Fall 2011, 80.2 percent of students were full-time, while 19.8 percent were part time. In order to be considered full time, students have to take at least 12 units.