Four Year Graduation Guarantee
National trends over the past decade demonstrate that college students are increasingly failing to graduate on time. At a growing number of colleges and universities, a four-year undergraduate degree is going the way of the dinosaur. Nationally, the average time from matriculation to graduation now exceeds five years, with only 37 percent of students graduating in four years. This trend is making a college education significantly more expensive by inflating the direct costs of college (tuition, fees, room and board) as well as the indirect costs associated with delaying entry into the employment market.
Mercer University is committed to ensuring that an undergraduate education at Mercer remains a four-year program. In keeping with our 178 year tradition of excellence, leadership, and innovation in higher education, Mercer University pledges to provide an educational environment that enables and encourages students to graduate within eight semesters of matriculation. Students who do their work, pass their classes, and follow the advice of our academic advisors will graduate within four years. And if such a student does not graduate within this time frame, the cost of whatever additional courses are required to graduate will be absorbed by the University.
This is Mercer’s pledge to our students. Beginning with the fall 2009 entering class, Mercer joined a handful of colleges and universities nationwide in making this pledge. And we’re backing up the pledge with investments to demonstrate that we’re serious, including significant technology upgrades to allow even better tracking, monitoring, and advising as students and their academic advisors navigate progress toward a four-year degree. We commit to provide annual written audits to students at the end of each academic year documenting their progress toward their goal of graduating in four years. Mercer will continue providing millions of dollars in institutionally funded scholarships to ensure that the University offers the affordable value that national publications have recognized. The Princeton Review has designated Mercer as a “Best Value” for our excellent academics and “relatively low costs of attendance,” while U.S. News & World Report includes Mercer on its list of “Great Schools, Great Prices.”
With this pledge, we seek to ensure that our students enter the next phase of their lives much faster than the national average – avoiding the additional financial burden that results from prolonging an undergraduate education and accelerating their journey to becoming productive and successful citizens. To qualify for the four-year pledge:
- Students must select the four-year pledge program. Students and their parents must participate in an orientation program prior to enrollment to learn their responsibilities and what is required to maintain their participant status within the program. Of course, even students who do not elect to participate in the four-year pledge program are encouraged to complete their undergraduate education within four years.
- Students must choose their primary academic program within the required time frame and stick with it. Programs with greater flexibility (Business and liberal arts) must be chosen by the third semester following matriculation, while programs with more structure (education, engineering, music and nursing) must be chosen at matriculation. In order to be eligible for the pledge, students participating in the following majors and programs must be Calculus ready by their first fall semester of enrollment: Engineering, Chemistry, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Biology, the Guaranteed Admissions Plus Programs for Pharmacy (GAPDP) and the Guaranteed Admissions Plus Program for Physician Assistant (GAPPA). Obviously, students who change their primary academic program may delay their graduation.
- Students must seek and follow the guidance of their academic advisor. Students must meet with their academic advisor prior to each pre-registration period. Any unauthorized deviation by the student from the schedule arranged between the student and the advisor may delay graduation depending on the circumstances.
- Students must make satisfactory academic progress. Students should strive to earn an average of 15 credit hours per semester and must earn 30 credit hours per academic year (including credit earned during the summer) for all four years. A few programs require more than 120 hours to graduate and the academic progress requirements are adjusted appropriately. College credits brought in by students upon matriculation may be included in these averages if specific course requirements are met in their academic programs.
- Students must maintain acceptable grades. Upon the completion of their second full semester following matriculation, students must earn a cumulative grade point average sufficient to avoid academic probation. Following completion of their third full semester, students must maintain a minimum of a 2.0 cumulative grade point average and must meet the required grade point average for their primary academic program. Repeating courses to achieve these minimum academic requirements, when permitted by University policy, must be accomplished in addition to academic progress standards to keep the pledge in force.
- Students must register promptly each semester and maintain full-time enrollment status throughout all four academic years. Prompt registration helps ensure that needed courses will be available. Students must attempt to register for classes within 24 hours of their earliest assigned time during the registration period every semester and must meet relevant academic program deadlines. Failure to meet these conditions may adversely affect a student’s ability to graduate in four years.
The four-year pledge covers only an on-time completion of the minimum requirements for graduation from a student’s college or school—up to 130 credit hours earned. Any student may elect to pursue more than the minimum graduation requirements, but doing so may delay graduation.
Mercer’s Pledge: If the student adheres to all pledge stipulations and is not able to graduate within four years of matriculation, Mercer will provide the student a waiver of tuition and fees for all additional courses required for graduation. If the student has lived in campus housing all four years, then the University will provide a waiver of on-campus housing costs. If the student has utilized campus meal plans for all four years, then the University will provide an equivalent meal plan at no cost for the additional required time of enrollment.
The Mercer four-year pledge reflects the commitment of our faculty to the success of our students. It is designed to encourage students to be intentional and responsible in successfully pursuing an undergraduate degree within four years of matriculation. And it encourages the University to be a responsible partner in working with students to achieve this desired outcome. A college education represents one of the most precious opportunities in our society. Mercer University is committed to helping reduce the cost of higher education, thus lightening the financial burdens on our students and their families.
How does The Pledge address the costs of attending Mercer? There seem to be so many less expensive alternatives.
We agree, it sounds like common sense. But it is a big deal when you look at the graduation rates of colleges and universities nationwide. According to Measuring Up 2008, a report by The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, six years is the time frame most often used to measure graduation rates. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we're talking about "four-year" institutions. Since that's the norm, why tack on two extra years? In fact, most bachelor's degree granting institutions are "four-year" colleges in name only. The large majority of students don't graduate "on time" by that measure. A solid majority of beginning, degree-seeking four-year students—63%—earn a bachelor's within six years. Only 37% earn their bachelor's in four years.
As a Mercer student, how will I know I am on track to graduate in four years and thereby uphold my part of the Pledge?
People who do their homework on what it costs to go to college know Mercer is a great deal! The Princeton Review has designated Mercer as a "Best Value" for our excellent academics and "relatively low costs of attendance," while U.S. News & World Report includes Mercer on its list of "Great Schools, Great Prices." How does this all translate to Mercer students? The entering class of 2008 averaged $23,638 in financial aid from all sources (scholarships, state/federal aid, etc.) excluding loans. Admission to Mercer University is very competitive and for those students who are admitted, we commit significant financial aid resources (institutional, state/federal, etc.) to maintain an exceptionally talented student body. By committing to the Mercer Pledge, our students will graduate on time and get into the job market or go on to graduate or professional school earlier than many of their peers who chose schools that on the front end appear less expensive. The Pledge should also limit the amount of student loans needed to graduate.
We pride ourselves on the relationships that students develop with their advisors. Advisors are the best source for answers to questions regarding degree progression. In addition, each May, at the end of the spring term grading period, an audit will be done of the courses taken and credits earned during that academic year. Students will receive an evaluation soon after the audit is completed that will detail their progression to their degree. The audit will either confirm Pledge compliance, or -- if the student deviated from the Pledge stipulations -- what might be done over the summer to remain on track with the Pledge. Keep in mind, a student who becomes Pledge ineligible may still be able to graduate in a timely manner. It's just that Mercer will not guarantee it.