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Opinion: 4-year degree is a fiction

For many students, the idea of completing a degree in four years is a fiction. The need for remediation, circumventing prerequisites, declining to read the college catalog, and failing classes are among a myriad of other reasons why college takes longer than four years and is so expensive.

The expression “four-year degree” is practically passé. When I attended college, a “full load” was 16 units per semester. Assuming that one took the appropriate courses and received passing grades, one graduated with the requisite 128 units in four years.

Today, a “full load” is 12 units per semester, but the requirement for a four-year degree is now 120 units. After four years of “full-load” work with passing grades, a student will have completed only 96 units, 24 units shy of the requirement for a degree. However, students who take 15 units per semester, take the right courses (according to the catalog), and pass each course can finish in four years. Of course, that assumes that those students did not require any remedial course work.


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