Super Seniors Waiting to Leave

Shawn Kellmer, Web Editor

More students are taking longer to get through college, although most do not take seven years like Chris Farley’s character in the movie “Tommy Boy.”

“Super Senior” is a label for a particular student subset: one who takes longer than the traditional four years to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Super senior and communications major Colleen Dean will graduate a year later than originally planned when she walks across the stage next month.

MU did not accept all of the credits she attempted to transfer from Penn State University Worthington, and this caused her to finish school after the fall 2012 semester. 

“I took biology at Penn State, but when I got to Misericordia I find out it was different and I had to take their bio. I thought I had to just take the communication classes and graduate on time, but I had to take classes I already took,” Dean said.

Dean’s finances and graduation plans were further complicated when she discovered she was missing required math credits. She had to return for the spring semester for a statistics class.

“It kind of hurt me because I had to pay for it,” Dean said.

Approximately 58 percent of students entering college with the goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree within four years do so, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The other 42 percent graduate in five or six years.

At Misericordia the rates are much lower than the national average with 12 percent of students graduating in more than four years.

These numbers can be confusing because they only represent students who start and finish at a higher learning institution. They excludes transfer students and older, non-traditional students.

“When you see graduation rates published, you will see four-year, five-year and six-year rates. These are the rates we are required to report to the federal government. They reflect persistence to graduation for students who start at the institution as full-time freshmen,” said Sharon Hudak, Assistant Director Institutional Research.

Registrar Joseph Redington said he doesn’t think Misericordia has a super senior problem because many of the university’s programs are cohorted.  

“In a lot of majors you have to do things in a certain order in a certain way to graduate. The order of that curriculum is such that it’s designed around a four-year completion,” Redington said. “We don’t have a lot of programs that have more than  120 credits. Therefore, students don’t have to take excessive course loads to graduate in most of the programs.”

He believes that larger universities have a super senior issue because of a lack of advising services.  He said the university has less of a problem because it is proactive with seniors who might have a course credit issue.

“We tend not to have students take the wrong classes because of the quality of the advising we have and the quality of control that the programs take to try to make sure their students do graduate in the appropriate time,” Redington said.

One way the university is proactive is that they are willing to work with seniors who may be short of credits.

“We always add extra sections of courses for seniors. We always make sure that if seniors, for some reason, have a conflict or a priority, they have an option. An online option for example, that wouldn’t normally be available to a traditional student, we would let a senior take the online class,” Redington said. “We provide many avenues to avoid the super senior problem because that ultimately causes problems for us.”

Dean said had to put her life on hold so she could go to college for an additional semester.

“I was supposed to move to New York because I had a potential job offer. I wound up not getting it because I wasn’t graduating yet and they wanted somebody immediately. I couldn’t do that,” Dean said

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The Numbers

Misericordia (the average of the last three years)

– 54% graduate in 4 years

– 11% graduate between 4 & 5 years

– 1%   graduate between 5 & 6 years