The picture above (courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics) is a visualization of how collegiate accomplishment relates to unemployment and pay. As you can see there is a $464 difference in median weekly earnings and almost a 3% difference in unemployment from a high school diploma to a bachelors degree. So yes, getting a college degree will make a significant difference. But if you are attending a college/university, you probably already knew that in some sense. The hard part is making it through the 4 years (give or take) required to achieve that profitable distinction. A lot of things can happen over four years, and sometimes those things can make it hard to keep going. However, if you can manage to pull through and get that degree, the payoff is evident. In light of this, we have put together some tips based off of statistical and empirical evidence that might help you reach graduation.
1. Register for Classes Early
Hopefully you’ve already registered for Spring Quarter. If not, get on that! When you register can make a big difference in the long run. There are a few reasons you will want to consider registering for your classes early:
- More Options. The earlier you start registration, the more classes you’ll have to choose from. This gives you a greater chance of enrolling in classes you like, which will (hopefully) increase enjoyment throughout the quarter!
- Time to Change your Mind. Lets say you are registered for a class, but a week later you decide it’s not for you. If you registered early, this might not be a problem at all. However, if you registered late you’ll have a difficult time finding another class to fill in your missing slot – and you may even have to pay a fee!
- In-Depth Advising. Registering early can give you a chance to schedule a full advisement appointment (rather than scrambling for a Drop-In spot) before your classes start. This can give you a better idea of how you are progressing towards/in your major – and also provide some extra assistance with any questions you might have about your classes. Depending on your circumstances, your advisor may even help you switch your classes around! Click here if you are a lower division student to make an appointment with your advisor. Otherwise, visit the Academic Advising Center (GWP 102)!
Still not convinced? Take a look at this graph, courtesy of UW’s Civitas data analysis platform:
As you may have noticed, this is a graph of average number of days before enrollment in the current term vs. student population. The green line represents students who persisted to the next academic year (didn’t drop out), and the red line represents students who didn’t. Props to you if you are registering more than 60 days (2 months!!) in advance – but because over 70% of our undergrads register less than 60 days before the next terms starts, we will focus on that.
You’ll notice that the green line stays above the red line until ~20 days before the quarter starts. A phase shift occurs and we then see the red line overtaking the green line. This tells us that persistent students tend to register earlier. In fact, 84% of our persistent students register greater than 20 days in advance. In comparison, only 69% of “non-persistors” register in a similar time-period. So you are 15% more likely to persist through the next term if you register more than twenty days in advance!
Additionally, about 5% of our students register after the term has started. You should avoid doing this by any means possible. Not only will you miss valuable days of class, but your chances of persisting decrease dramatically. The overall persistence rate for all of our undergrads is ~90%; that number drops down to 72% for students who register after class begins. Registering early is fairly simple, will statistically improve your odds of persisting, and make your life easier later in the quarter!
2. Take more credits
While you are registering early, you’ll want to register for as many classes as you think you can handle as well. That may mean more work, but the payoff is worth it.
If you are an undergraduate taking 12 credits or more, then you are known as a “full time” student. Likewise, undergrads taking less than 12 credits are known as “part time” students. Right off the bat, it is evident that full time students are more likely to stick around till the next quarter than part time students. Civitas tell us that of all our undergraduates, full time students are 2% more likely to persevere, while part time students are 9% less likely.
This might be due, in part, to the fact that undergraduates in their major tend to persist to the next quarter more often than pre-major undergrads. In fact, the persistence rate of “in-major” students is 92%, which is 9% higher than pre-major undergraduate’s persistence rate of 83%. What does a full time schedule have to do with this? Well, if you are a full time student, you are spending less cumulative time as a pre-major. In short, the more credits you take, the faster you get into your major, and the more likely you are to persist to your eventual graduation.
However, even if you are a full time student, you could be looking at a five year or more academic plan. While full time is defined at 12 credits, that does not mean you should only take 12 credits if you can afford to take more. Unless you plan to take summer courses as well, 12 credits a quarter will end up pushing out your graduation far past the “traditional” four years. If you can manage it, we recommend taking 15 credits a quarter, for three quarters, each academic year. That’s three 5 credit classes, which may seem like a lot, but it’s manageable – even if you are working upwards of twenty hours a week. As an added benefit, it also leaves your summers completely open to do whatever you need/want to.
Statistical analysis of the “15 credit” claim proves it’s validity. Civitas reveals that full time undergraduates taking less than 15 credits are 13% more likely to drop out by the next academic year than full time undergraduates taking 15 credits or more. Moreover, these findings are present in universities across the country; not just at UWT. In fact, there is now a nation-wide movement to promote taking the optimal 15 credits. It is called 15 to Finish, and they have an… interesting promo video, to say the least:
So, as you can see, there are a lot of benefits to taking those 15 credits every quarter. However, not everyone has the time and/or money to commit to that. In that case, we urge you to try to take at least 12 credits, and perhaps pick up the slack over the summer. If you absolutely have to take classes part time, try to take 9-10 credits. You won’t stray too far off track, especially if you only need to do it for one or two quarters. Despite this, we implore you to explore all your options before you decide that you can’t commit to a full time schedule. Which brings us to our next tip:
3. Take online classes
If you are a busy student that can’t afford to attend classes on-campus several times a week, then online courses are for you! They can be a convenient way to take more credits when you are juggling a busy work schedule. Additionally, there is plenty of evidence that endorses the positive influence online classes provide. Out of all of our undergraduates (both in their major and pre-major), students who are taking one or more online classes (“blended” students) have a 3% better chance of persisting through to Fall Quarter (89% on-ground vs. 92% partially online).
This divide becomes even more prominent when we analyze the data for part time students alone. Part time “blended” students have an 8% increase in persistence compared to all on-campus part time students (88% vs. 80%). This should come as no surprise. Students who are busy enough t0 decide to take a part time course load will likely benefit from courses that can be taken at a more individual pace (which online classes often provide). The rigidity of on-campus courses can be too much for already overloaded undergrads, which in turn might lead the student to drop college all-together as the pressure rises. Online courses often alleviate this stress, which might account for the better persistence rate in blended students.
It is also important to note that the convenience of online courses should encourage you to take more credits. From the previous topic, we know that the closer we can get to 15 credits a quarter, the better. Part of the philosophy behind online classes is creating a more accessible way for students to reach this target. So take advantage of it, you won’t regret it!
Note: If you are planning on taking online classes, and haven’t taken one before, we strongly recommend you visit the Online Learner’s FAQ and Guide to Successful Online Learning to gain some insights before you commit!
Taking online classes, then, is a great idea! Unfortunately, it’s not possible for everyone due to the limited selection UWT offers. To be fair, the university is working hard to develop more online options across all it’s institutions. One example of this effort is the manifestation of the all-online Criminal Justice major. However, there is a lot more work to do. Using UWT’s time schedule quick search, we can find out how many online courses are being offered this upcoming Spring Quarter. To do this, we simply select “Online” from the Location drop-down menu. Then all we have to do is scroll to the bottom and see how many entries were retrieved (1 entry = 1 online class).
So, there were only 25 online classes offered for Spring of 2018 (Disclaimer: There are 42 “hybrid” [part online, part on-campus] classes in addition to the 25 previously mentioned). Of those 25 classes, only 16 are available to lower division (pre-major) students. And that doesn’t even account for classes that are full/closed. Filtering out those courses, we discover that there are only 7 online classes available. Furthermore, five of those classes are exclusive to the previously mentioned online Criminal justice program, so there are really only 2 online courses to choose from for the general student population. Granted, registration has been open for awhile and most of our students register at least 20 days in advance. But even so, there is currently a severe lack of online courses at the University of Washington – Tacoma.
Fewer online classes means fewer opportunities for students. This is especially true for part time, lower division students whom tend to have the lowest persistence rates and could benefit the most from online programs. Their registration period is placed before upper division registration – which means that the online options get filled up before they even have a chance to enroll. Then they only have whatever is leftover to choose from, which may or may not be in the least bit relevant to their academic plan.
What can we do?
A lot, actually. For starters, you can visit this survey link so we can get a better idea of the student’s desire for online courses. It literally takes less than two minutes to fill out, and it works on mobile devices to! Another easy and effective way you can help the push for more online courses is indicate your desire for them in your course evaluations. You know those surveys you fill out at the end of every quarter? That’s the perfect place to mention a desire for more online options! Here’s a list of some more things you can do:
- The first step to creating an online course is getting a professor to commit to creating one! Talk to your instructors about the benefits online courses can have! If they have questions, direct them to this guide, or have them come visit us at the Faculty Resource Center (WG 208)
- Urge your professors to become iTech Fellows. It is required in order to teach online courses, and they will also learn about some of the positive attributes online courses possess. If they need convincing, let them know they’ll receive a $1000 stipend upon completion. You can see if your professor is an iTech Fellow already by visiting this link.
- Contact the ASUWT (UWT’s elected student government), and let them know that this is an important issue. They are a strong voice for students, and can help in promoting awareness of issues like this.
In conclusion, register at least 20 days in advance, take as close to fifteen credits as you can, and try taking online classes (if they are available). These are just a few – relatively easy – things you can do to statistically improve your odds of not dropping out. Have other tips, comments, or qualms with the topics presented? Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts! It’s pretty barren down there guys – give our comment section some love???