Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

I’m confused by Higher Education’s obsession with four year graduation. I was taught to never confuse efficiency with effectiveness.

For nearly a decade, we’ve known the national average on bachelor’s degree completion to be 5.5 years. And anyone who has ever been responsible for sitting on a search committee, knows that a 3.5 will be hired over a 3.o regardless of whether the former took two years longer tan the latter. So why the obsession?

We also know that when a student works as few as twenty hours a week, it will have a negative effect on that student’s ability to be successful in more than 12 credit hours in that term. There are 168 hours in a week, so assuming the basic recommendation to spend two to three hours a week studying outside of class for every hour you spend in class, with the following break down would ensue.

Activity  Hours/ Week
Class 15
Study 30
Sleep 56
work 20
meals 21
to bed/awake 8
miscellaneous 18
Total 168

We see there is a scant 18 hours in a week to deal in things like commuting to and from class, getting to and from work, relaxing, and being something other than a “Stepford Student” — and that is only if the students studies at a 2:1 ratio. Fewer than three hours a day is not a lot of wiggle room, and when midterms and finals come around, that 30 hours per week studying is going to fly through the roof.

Wrap this all up with the fact that it took me six years for my Bachelor’s in Music, and four years for my MA, (I’ll stack my 3.6 undergrad and 4.0 graduate GPAs against any fellow candidate in a job interview), and you can see why I start to twitch a little when institutions beat the drum for their precious four to six year graduation rate.


About Art

I've been a higher education professional for over 15 years and an Academic Advising administrator for the past eight of those. I have a background in exploratory student advising and have spent a great deal of time guiding students through contemplating their personal college-to-career pathways. I've published, presented, and consulted on the intersection of social media and academia and am a firm believer in social media's power as a tool for engagement rather than solely information delivery. I've worked at public and private institutions as well as 2-year colleges and 4-year universities. I believe in Academic Advising as a teaching and learning activity, that learner-centered education is the key to students' academic success, and that as long as we keep students' individual goals and success at the center of our decision-making process, the problem of college-level student attrition can be solved.
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