Incentivize graduation

If the University wants students out the door, it shouldn’t kick them.

The Editorial Board

If you have more than 130 credits or if youâÄôve been a student for more than four years, University of Minnesota officials are considering raising your tuition. Their goal is to improve the four-year graduation rate is an admirable one. But instead of crassly punishing students for not graduating on time, the University should offer positive incentives for those who do.

In this country, college is supposed to be a place for intellectual exploration, not merely a clearinghouse for the marketplace. ItâÄôs impractical to think all students should know what they want to pursue in four years. Many change majors and many pursue multiple studies. Most are here for a more fulfilling life.

Students also take longer than four years because they feel financial pressure to work and avoid taking out big student loans, delaying their progress. On that, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Robert McMaster had this to say: “What weâÄôd rather have students do, instead of working âĦ is find other resources.” So why not offer lower tuition for a studentâÄôs last semester if it gets him or her out in four years or less?

University officials should think along the lines of the positive incentives already in place. The 13-credit policy allows students to take any credits over 13 without charge. Part of the four-year guarantee offers students a tuition waiver on a class that would put them out the door in four years if they cannot take it. These are fair and successful policies.

If nothing else, thereâÄôs one disconcerting drawback in charging higher tuition rates to students deemed here too long: Overall student debt âÄî and percentage thereof âÄî could increase. With that, the University would further solidify its record of giving students some of the nastiest debt-loads in the Big Ten. The consequences of disincentivizing public education also fall on the reputation of this public institution.