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Graduation guarantees from colleges

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Buy four, get four free.  This sounds like a great deal for colleges, who promise you'll get a degree in four years.  A growing number of colleges are trying to entice students with a guarantee: finish in four years, or the extra tuition is free.  The average college freshman takes more than five and a half years to graduate.  However, most of these four-year guarantees come with conditions.

Freshman may be required to declare and stick to a major all four years, take certain classes or forgo studying abroad.  Even with free tuition after the fourth year, students still have to pay dorm and living costs.  The guarantee comes from the colleges promising to help students finish in four years by eliminating roadblocks to graduation.  These might include things like reducing overcrowding, lowering the number of credits required to graduate, and creating standard four-year plans that can easily be followed.  If school-caused delays prevent a student who signs up for a guarantee from finishing in four years, the college promises to pay for any extra courses they need.

The bottom line: read the fine print.  Every program is different, so make sure you understand what the college requires and what it offers in return.

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