Colleges promote four-year graduation timelineWith the cost of college rising quickly, students are looking for ways cut tuition expenses, and schools are trying to attract more students to make up for declining revenue. Many students have found that one of the best ways to keep tuition expenses to a minimum is graduating within the standard four-year timeline, or sometimes even earlier. Universities are beginning to take note of this and are using it to further their advertising efforts and lure in new pupils.

?'Branding' the four-year experience
Colleges are beginning to push students into graduating in a timely fashion. A 2011 U.S. News survey revealed that only 40.1 percent of first time, full-time pupils who began their studies in 2004 had graduated by 2008, a trend universities are trying to reverse.

The University of Texas began the 2012 school year with a branding effort to encourage students to graduate together in 2016. The "Class of Twenty 16" logo was placed on shirts, flyers and bags given away at orientation to remind students that they are expected to graduate on time.

Many students plan to graduate within four years, but sometimes lose track of exactly what they need to do in order to complete that goal. Personal problems, financial issues and changing a major can all contribute to a delay in graduation. But schools want their pupils to earn degrees quickly, and the branding efforts might push struggling students to complete their courses of study on time.

"Part of the reason and the goal with this branding is not just to have that logo visible as much as possible but also to get students to buy into meeting their expectations and potential," new student services associate director Kyle Clark told the Daily Texan.

Pressure from government
Some schools with low four-year graduation rates are feeling the heat from state legislators. Universities may see their graduation rates tied to their ability to raise tuition. State universities in Florida, for example, are being pressed to increase graduation numbers. If students fail to graduate in a timely fashion, the schools cannot increase their tuition rates.

The schools aren't just being encouraged to raise the number of students who complete degrees in four years. They also need to raise the amount of students who finish their courses of study in six years, which some universities say has become a standard timeline for graduation.

Guaranteeing a four-year program
Universities are seeing high four-year graduation rates as an asset and a way to draw in new students concerned about completing their degrees in a timely fashion. A four-year graduation guarantee is the latest way schools are promoting themselves and standing out from other higher education institutions.

Virginia's Randolph-Macon College and Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio are just two of the latest schools to promise students they'll graduate in four years. If students require an extra few semesters, the universities will pay the difference. Those who fail to meet the four-year deadline and want their schools to assist them until they graduate must be qualified for the program - good grades and sessions with academic advisors are required.

The four-year graduation programs are not common across the country yet. Schools that use this on-time graduation promise as a marketing strategy often have an advantage over their local competitors, as the colleges are seen as having each student's best interests in mind. This is not just a draw for students - it also catches the eyes of parents, who often finance some of their child's college degree and want him or her to graduate quickly and find a job that fits the skills learned while obtaining a degree.
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