With a goal of reducing the cost of a college education for students and their families, Mercer announced on Feb. 16 an initiative called the “Four-Year Pledge” to help more undergraduate students earn their degrees on time.
Trends over the past decade indicate that college students are increasingly failing to graduate within four years. 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.
“At a growing number of colleges and universities, a four-year undergraduate degree is going the way of the dinosaur,” said Brian Dalton, Mercer’s vice president for enrollment management. “The Mercer Four-Year Pledge reflects the commitment of our faculty and staff 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,” Dalton said.
In keeping with the institution’s 176-year tradition of excellence, leadership and innovation in higher education, Mercer pledges to provide an educational environment that enables and encourages students to graduate within eight semesters of matriculation. Beginning with the freshman class of 2009, students who do their work, pass their classes, and follow the advice of faculty advisers will graduate within four years. Under the program, if 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.
One of only a handful of universities in the country to offer such a guarantee, the University is backing up the pledge with major investments in technology upgrades to allow even better tracking, monitoring and advising as students and their academic advisers navigate progress toward a four-year degree. Mercer will provide written audits to students at the end of each academic year, documenting progress toward their goal of graduating in four years. The institution will also continue investing 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 its 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,” Dalton said.
The Mercer Four-Year Pledge states: “If the student adheres to all pledge stipulations and is not able to graduate within four years of matriculating, 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.”
“A college education represents one of the most precious opportunities in our society,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “Mercer University is committed to helping reduce the cost of higher education, thus lightening the financial burdens on our students and their families.”
For more information on the Four-Year Pledge, go to www.mercer.edu/pledge or call (800) 840-8577 or (478) 301-2650.