Commencement is coming up soon, and chances are, if you’ve been here five years, you’re gonna be walking. Or standing, as it happens — no one will actually “walk” at Citizen’s Bank Park, they’ll be standing up and acknowledged as a group, because there’s no time to acknowledge everyone individually. At a later ceremony you’ll be presented with a thing called a placeholder, which is not your degree. Instead, you’ll get your quarter-million dollar piece of paper in the mail eight to ten weeks later.
Or worse — you won’t. Drexel’s six year graduation rate, as of March 10, was 68 percent, meaning nearly one out of any three folks you see won’t be graduating on time, or even within a year of on time.
The University has been touting their efforts to improve this number through the standard means of being more selective in applicants and charging higher fees to apply, and want to bring this number to 80 percent in the future.
Does it really matter, though? In the grand scheme of things, you can graduate late, and be much better off for it. The University’s quest to reduce late graduations is superficial at best, and counterproductive at worst. With reductions in the night class program and the gradual scaling back of the Goodwin College of Professional Studies into a shell of its former self, it is more and more difficult to complete a degree while holding down a full-time job — which is a cornerstone of the Drexel experience. Scores of students are hired full-time by their third co-op, but are forced to contend with a nine-month gap of full-time classes before they can actually be hired. At that point, the job may have been filled by someone else, or it may no longer exist at all.
The foundation of this school has been cooperative education, since the program started in 1919. We use co-op to gain knowledge, experience, and yes, at the end of the day, take-home pay. Working full time in your field becomes increasingly difficult when your classes are only offered during normal working hours. Completing a degree at night, once Drexel’s raison d’etre, is almost impossible today.
Graduating late, then, isn’t bad, and isn’t shameful. It is an informed decision: You can graduate in five years and conduct an arduous job search while paying off your quarter-million-dollar piece of paper, or graduate in five-and-a-half years while making money and not worrying about the job market.
It’s not that simple, of course, but it’s a way of looking at it which doesn’t occur to most people.
The fact is that if you’re working full-time in a field related to your major, and you like where you work, and you intend to stay there, then who cares if you graduate on time? Pay per credit, take an extra term or two, make life easy for yourself. Enjoy your work for a change, there’s no need to overschedule yourself. Show your support for night school — take night classes, they’re full of older students who are generally more enthusiastic about learning anyway. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to pay attention without 20-somethings around.
(And if you’re trying to get into graduate school right out of undergrad, please disregard this article, and good luck with your bad choices.)