Editorial: USF shouldn’t snub extra semesters of school

First, they got universal health care. Now, their students can receive a free university education.

To increase the number of college graduates, the University of Calgary is offering free degrees to those who can’t finish in four years: Its “graduation guarantee” commits the university to pay students’ tuition if they take any longer to graduate.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the deal will apply to four-year programs in disciplines including communication, science and the humanities.

Closer to home, Indiana’s university system is also looking into ways of increasing its degree completion rate.

Indiana’s Commission on Higher Education made a recommendation similar to that of Calgary’s policy: The commission suggested making the first two years of education free if taken at a community college, or at a regional campus for students who make $50,000 or less.

USF, too, has been on a campaign to reduce the time it takes for students to graduate. During the Bulls Round-Up, University President Judy Genshaft and President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall frequently reiterated that they wanted students to graduate on time — in four years.

But what the likes of Genshaft and Meningall seem to be overlooking is USF’s student body. The average USF student is 28 years old, according to the USF counseling center. Many students that age must work to pay for tuition. Some even have families to support.

Although it is admirable that universities are encouraging students to finish their degrees on time, taking an additional year or so should not be vilified.

And while it might be nice for all USF students to graduate on time, this goal might be impossible in the midst of state-level budget cuts.

The  University offers certain classes — often ones required for majors — only once an academic year. And sometimes there’s only one section of these required classes per semester. Sometimes it’s tricky — if not impossible — to take the right classes or follow the appropriate sequence when seats are limited and schedules conflict.

Perhaps USF could better direct its efforts toward helping students get into the courses they need and making sure they’re available, rather than looking down on an extra semester in school.