Jack Dengel, a senior from Illinois majoring in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, will be graduating in May after four years of undergraduate study. Since his major will be discontinued in the fall, he had to graduate on time and dedicate most of his coursework to his specialized major. He also pressured himself to graduate in four years to save his parents money and join the work force sooner.
“There’s no room to really find yourself in college,” he said regarding his intensive major and rush to graduate.
Out-of-state students like Dengel tend to take fewer semesters to graduate than UW-Madison students from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Nearly 51 percent of Wisconsin and 59 percent of Minnesota students graduate within four years, whereas 63 percent of non-resident students graduate in four years.
Jocelyn Milner, UW-Madison associate vice provost and director of Academic Planning and Analysis, speculates since out-of-state tuition is $15,700 higher annually than Wisconsin tuition, non-resident students are motivated to graduate quicker than in-state students.
But education policy studies professor Sara Goldrick-Rab said non-resident students likely take less time to graduate because they usually come from more secure socioeconomic backgrounds, evidenced by the higher tuition they pay. Their parents are more likely to have gone to college, and to be more secure financially.
“Totally forget the price they pay,” Goldrick-Rab said. “They have a whole number of characteristics which we don’t measure”
Associated Students of Madison Chair Allie Gardner, a Wisconsin resident, also said the graduation rate difference has more to do with the fact that non-residents might come from wealthier families, which would better prepare them for college and make them more likely to graduate in four years. She questioned whether high non-resident tuition was the main factor in pressuring students to graduate in four years.
“If I was that worried about not being able to pay for [non-resident tuition] at all then I wouldn’t be able to go here,” Gardner said.
Olivia Zale, a junior from New York City double-majoring in international studies and political science will take more than four years to graduate. She said her family emphasizes it is acceptable to take more semesters to graduate in order for her to get the degrees she wants to pursue.
“There’s no reason to rush if you don’t have to. Its not like you’re putting off your life,” she said.
Since UW-Madison’s priority is to serve Wisconsin residents, a Board of Regents policy limits non-resident enrollment to 25 percent of the total undergraduate population. In reality, more than 25 percent of entering freshman are actually non-residents because most students in their fifth and sixth years of study are resident students.
By the numbers, the Admissions Department actually accepts more non-residents than residents because a smaller percentage of non-residents ultimately choose to enroll at UW-Madison, whereas resident students’ top choice is often UW-Madison, according to Joanne Berg, vice provost for Enrollment Management .
The more intangible differences Goldrick-Rab mentioned between in-state and out-of-state students, therefore, seem to affect both how they come to UW-Madison in the first place, and when they leave it.