University sees increase in early graduation rates
As most seniors plan their schedules in preparation for their last semester, some seniors are looking for jobs and getting ready for graduation.“If you’re done, you’re done,” said Gabe Bucsko, a senior majoring in cinema-television production. “The only reason I would stay is if I was scared.”Bucsko is graduating a semester early — a choice that is becoming increasingly common at USC.In four years, the number of students graduating early has grown steadily, increasing from 6.9 percent to 9.1 percent, according to Ray Gonzales, director of research and reporting for the Office of Academic Records and Registrar.Gonzales could not point to any one factor that has led to this increase, though he said the economy likely has played a role.“The economy — it’s definitely a confusing time for us,” Gonzales said. “We don’t have the same economic climate as in previous years.”Gene Bickers, vice provost for undergraduate programs, said the reason for graduating early varies from student to student.Some, like Bucsko, are choosing to leave early to save money. Though the job market is daunting, Bucsko said he’d rather try to get a job than pay for an unnecessary semester of school.“It’s not the best time to be going into any industry, really,” Bucsko said. “But I want to get a job — I have an internship right now that will hopefully turn into something.”Maryann Wu, an assistant director of undergraduate advisement in the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, said she has seen more students wanting to graduate early in recent years.But Wu, who graduated a year early from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, said she would rather have stayed in college longer.“During the time I was at Miami, I didn’t know why I was in such a rush, and I wish I would have spent my four years to pick up another major or minor or study abroad,” Wu said.Wu speculated that more students might be graduating early because it’s becoming increasingly common for students to bring in a lot of transfer credits earned through Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate scores.Michael Saleeb, a senior majoring in political science and communication, said it was easy for him to graduate a semester early because of all the AP credits he earned from high school.“Originally, I was going to graduate in three years, but I had to pick up another degree in order to have enough credits to graduate from the university,” Saleeb said.Saleeb said he recommends that students understand what their options are in terms of class selection and course requirements if they want to graduate early.Katie Reid, a senior majoring in theatre, said she is graduating in December because she took the maximum number of units per semester for the semesters she’s been at USC and because she planned her course schedule well.“I didn’t go into college planning to graduate early, but because I planned my semesters ahead of time and took the classes I needed to take instead of wasting my units, I was able to graduate a semester early,” Reid said.Reid said she already has a job lined up for January from a previous internship. She said she thinks her early graduation may have made it less competitive for her to find a job.“The weakened economy has made it super-competitive,” Reid said. “I don’t think I have as much competition because there are fewer graduates in December, and most of the recent graduates with whom I’m competing are from May 2009.”Wu said some of her students choose to graduate early to get a leg up on the job market competition, among other advantages.“The pros of graduating early include saving money, getting a head start on the job market and having more time to prepare for graduate school,” Wu said.But Wu said it was important to note that every student has a different situation — the bottom line was to help students pursue their interests at USC.“USC has so much to offer and it’s important to make the most of your experience here,” Wu said.