GV encourages four-year plan
In President Thomas J. Haas’ annual Accountability Report, Grand Valley State University cited a new internal study that revealed a trend where students who graduated in four years accumulated debt lower than the national average.
GVSU administrators studied students who entered GVSU as freshmen in fall 2008 and graduated four years later last spring 2012. The findings prompted Haas to encourage cost-conscious students to plan for a four-year graduation date to decrease debt, according to a news release sent out by GVSU News and Information on Aug. 21.
The release said 37 percent of the 2008 freshman used in the study had no debt, while the median for the group settled around $13,569. Students who took five or more years to graduate collected more debt.
Haas’ report also showed that nearly 900 GVSU grads received the university’s Grand Finish grant, which rewards students who stay on the four-year graduation track with $1,000 grant.
Advisers at GVSU’s Student Academic Success Center said while sometimes challenging, a speedy completion of one’s education is possible if students utilize campus resources. Though these may include meeting with professors during their office hours and taking advantage of the walk-in hours in Math and Science Student Support, meeting with an adviser is usually step one in ensuring a successful four-year academic career.
“It is important that first year students meet with an academic adviser regularly starting in the first semester,” said Jackie Rautio, associate director at the Student Academic Success Center. “An adviser can help you maximize your credits and make sure that you are taking courses in the appropriate sequence so that you can finish requirements in four years.”
With the fall semester underway, she said students should take advantage of these services when they first begin to struggle in classes, before they get too far into the semester.
“Many students who were good, strong students in high school realize that their approach to studying in high school isn’t working here,” Rautio said. “Students need to take advantage of all the resources available so that they can do their best.”
But the graduation rate of students isn’t all based on academic struggles – there are other factors that go into students having to attend GVSU for more than four years, largely the decision to change majors. Students who change majors sometimes have to attend GVSU longer in order to satisfy the major requirements needed.
“If a student changes their major in their first year, or even their first semester of sophomore year, they should still be able to graduate in four years,” Rautio said, adding that there are more challenges to changing a major later in an academic career.
“That is why it is so important to explore majors and careers in your freshman year,” she said. “The later in your college career that you change the major, the more likely that it will lengthen your graduation time.”
Many students take advantage of these services and are on track for a four-year completion, but still find themselves in debt. Like the academic support around campus, GVSU also offers different ways students can decrease their debt.
From finding a job on the GVSU job board to applying for one of hundreds of available scholarships, there are many ways to limit debt, but one of the biggest is deciding how much assistance is really needed.
According to the news release, nearly 95 percent of GVSU’s students received some type of assistance, including loans. Students should think about what they’re accepting, said Michelle Rhodes, director of financial aid at GVSU.
“Don’t always accept all of the financial aid that gets offered to you,” she said. “Make sure you really need the loans.”
Decreasing student loans and alternative methods of getting into debt can be tricky, but GVSU has support in place for students.
“The Financial Aid Office and Student Employment Office are always willing to meet with students to discuss their individual needs,” Rhodes said.
To contact the Financial Aid Office, students can call 616-331-3234.
Students looking to develop a four-year plan can meet with their advisers for guidance.
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