Just as some students finish filing their late registrations and shell out $80 to look the part, many of their colleagues miss the four-year mark for graduation because they are balancing school and life obstacles.
For Vicaria Norman, a self-ascribed “super senior,” the goal of graduating from college has been delayed, making her road to graduation a mental marathon.
“As a freshman, my best friend and I felt discouraged by the facility when it came to enrolling us as pre-nursing majors,” Norman, a health science major at California State University, Long Beach, said. “They stressed the fact that one out of five [students] are probably going to get into this school, probably. And they just stressed the fact that you should probably do something else because…”
She cut herself off mid-sentence and said, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”
The chances of getting into CSULB’s nursing program are slim.
According to Applicant Pool Statistics, 479 applicants applied for the fall semester and only 82 were admitted. One-hundred-and-forty-three applicants were deemed ineligible, and 336 were listed as qualified alternates.
To be considered for the CSULB nursing major, students have to complete a series of prerequisites in addition to passing four science courses.
Due to a lack of class availability, Norman was only able to finish two of the four science requirements. She completed one during her third year at CSULB, and another at El Camino Community College while being concurrently enrolled.
Norman was in her third year and needed a backup plan.
“It was just too much to try to get those [pre-requisites] done and declare my major at an acceptable time,” Norman said. “My parents were like ‘Oh, are you still pre-nursing?’
Unwilling to waste any time, Norman visited another advisor who encouraged her to switch majors.
“Health science is similar to [nursing] and that’s why I decided to do the other route,” Norman said, with full intention to eventually pursue a degree in nursing.
Norman’s story is one of many “super senior” experiences. When four-year expectations have turned into five and six-year journeys, the cap and gown commemoration becomes a pipe dream.
According to CSULB’s graduate rates, the class of 2009 only graduated 15.5 percent of its class made the four-year mark. In 2014, 32.8 percent graduated in their fifth year. The remaining half of the class is still pending graduation.
There are numerous reasons why students fail to achieve the status quo of four years.
Jann-Eric Victoriano, a kinesiology major at CSULB, said that he believes students have themselves to blame.
“It takes them so long because they take too little units or they procrastinate a lot,” Victoriano said. Despite being a freshman and unfamiliar with the obstacles to come, he sees himself graduating in four years.
Juggling work and studies is a time-management struggle for Eric Lara, a sophomore business marketing major at CSULB.
“I have to work; it’s not an option really,” Lara said. “It just depends on the situation, how much freedom you have, whether you have to work or not.”
Dr. David Dowell, CSULB’s Senior Vice President who is in charge of enrollment planning, said that he believes working is not as impeding as it sounds.
“I think that, to some extent, the fact that students have to work will slow them down a little bit,” Dowell said. “Although I think that’s much less significant a factor than many people [think], because a lot of people try to hang it all on the fact that students are working.”
Dowell has led CSULB’s Division of Academic Affairs for 11 years and has also helped improve the school’s admission process.
“I do not accept the idea; working isn’t preventing them from taking classes,” Dowell said. “Students are earning plenty of units, they are earning more units than they need to graduate, so that suggests that they’re actually taking classes.”
According to Dowell, CSULB students have an average of 144 units upon graduation, which are 24 extra units—the equivalent of eight 3-unit classes— above the national standard. Complete College America, which consists of 35 U.S. governors across the nation, stated that college students across the country are graduating with an average of 133 units.
“I think students ought to be as upset about delayed graduation as they are about fee increases because they have the same effect,” Dowell said. “I mean, they’ve really changed the conversation about the student excellence fee system.”
Dowell also mentioned recent legislative conversations across the state holding universities accountable for their graduation rates.
“If the students would hold us accountable for graduation rates,” Dowell said. “[Change] would happen.”