NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – As colleges and universities across Kansas and nationwide look at ways to improve graduation rates, Bethel College is ahead of the wave.
Eleven years ago, starting with the 2000-01 school year, the private, liberal arts college instituted its “4-year Graduation Guarantee,” aimed at students who come to college with firm career goals. Bethel is currently one of only about a dozen colleges or universities in the country with such a guarantee.
Students who enter Bethel as college freshmen (or transfer having fulfilled enough requirements), declare a major early and stick with it, take full course loads and consistently make good grades are guaranteed to graduate in four years.
If that doesn’t happen, a student who has met the criteria will get the additional classes needed tuition-free.
Over the past 10 years, 78 percent of Bethel graduates completed their degrees in four years, well above the 49 percent national average for public colleges. Bethel’s overall high graduation rate – 11 percent over the rate predicted in the “U.S. News & World Report” Best Colleges rankings for 2010-11 – put Bethel in the top 12 nationally of liberal arts colleges whose graduation rates surpass predictions, according to the April 2011 edition of the “Postsecondary Education Opportunity,” a research letter.
While an important reason 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds go to college is for a broad range of academic experiences in order to help set future life directions, it often adds up to more than four years in school, with the subsequent additional expense. In tough economic times, more and more students (and their parents) are looking for programs of study that will get them to a degree in four years.
“Bethel’s 4-year Graduation Guarantee is just one part of the college’s broader commitment to provide our students with excellent advising from the moment they select Bethel until they earn their college degree,” said Brad Born, vice president for academic affairs. “That same commitment to students’ academic progress explains both Bethel’s high retention rate and high graduation rate, and that record of supporting student success inspires our confidence in extending this guarantee.”
Bethel has articulation agreements with Hesston College, Hutchinson Community College, Cloud County Community College and Butler Community College that helps facilitate transfer for students from those two-year schools who want to continue their education and earn a four-year degree.