Between juggling classes, extracurricular activities and often a part-time job, it's no wonder some students are struggling to graduate on time.
In fact, among students who started at a four-year private nonprofit college in 2007 (the latest data available), just 52.8 percent graduated within four years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. At public four-year colleges, it was 33.5 percent.
Starting this fall, the private University of Evansville — where the four-year completion rate was about 58 percent — officially rolls out a guarantee: Finish in four years or the fifth year is tuition free. Several other schools have initiated a similar push to get students in and out.
"It's a two way street," Evansville President Tom Kazee said. Students must live up to their end of the bargain — such as working with an academic advisor, taking a full course load each semester and passing all of their classes.
Rather than pay out an extra year's tuition, the goal is to change student behavior from the start so they graduate on time, said Ben Miller, senior director of post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress. "The best-case scenario for this school is that no one ever needs to use the guarantee."
Kazee said it's his school's way of ensuring students who want to graduate, can, while also recognizing that faced with the rising cost of college, many families feel "anxiety about affordability and anxiety about outcome."
"More schools are going to discover that they are going to have to do that, too," Kazee said.