That kind of relationship would likely help students who are stuck in a major transition, acknowledges Shack at Michigan State. Since he was assigned an adviser in his original major program, he moved departments under little guidance and was unaware until after the switch that he would no longer graduate in four years, he says.
"I wouldn't say there was necessarily anyone that I knew personally, or an adviser I knew to meet with," Shack says. "You're kind of handed off from college to college, and it's hard, then, to understand exactly what's needed."
[Take these 10 steps to be your own college adviser.]
Still, it's often important for students to try to keep up with their requirements, particularly if they hope to take a nontraditional course load or finish a four-year degree early. At Indiana University, a new type of guarantee incentivizes this kind of experimentation, discounting summer tuition for in-state students by 25 percent and for out-of-state students by an equivalent dollar amount starting in 2012, according to a recent school announcement.
Though the new mandate could put more of the onus on students to determine if they can add more classes in the summer or how a semester away from school might affect their timeframe, it's also a way to craft a more flexible and potentially less expensive year-round option that could help them to leave on time or more quickly, degree in hand.
"I don't think that anybody comes to school thinking that it's going to take significantly longer than four years to graduate," says Mark Land, Indiana University's associate vice president for university communications. "Especially now, with money being such an issue for students, we're working harder than ever to keep them on track so they can get into the workforce."
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