One of the stipulations we set for students enrolled in our Give Something Back Foundation scholarship program is that they graduate from college in four years.

Four years, however, is no longer the standard according to a 2014 report from Complete College America. Across the U.S., only 50 out of more than 580 public four-year institutions graduate the majority of their full-time students in four years.

And Forbes reported that only 49 percent of students that enter one of its America’s Best Colleges graduates on time.

It has become routine for four-year colleges to measure graduation rates on a six-year time frame.

This is unacceptable to me, especially when we consider that students and their families are trying frantically to control the costs of college, which are skyrocketing. Delays in obtaining a bachelor’s degree are costing families billions in extra college expenses. Complete College America outlined these additional statistics:

• At public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students graduate in four years.
• At flagship or research universities, only 36 percent of full-time students graduate in four years.
• Each additional year of college costs nearly $23,000 for tuition (in state), room, board, and fees.
• Debt increases by nearly 70 percent for students who borrow to attend colleges for two additional years.

I recognize that there are many justifiable reasons why students don’t graduate on time, and usually these reasons are beyond a student’s control. Most often than not it’s because a student is financing his or her own education and needs to slow down the course load in order to work his/her way through school.

In my opinion, students are better off both academically and financially if they enroll in enough classes to earn a degree in four years—even though they may incur debt. By graduating sooner, a person can also enter the work force faster, get on-the-job training faster and obtain a higher paying job that will enable them to pay off their loans more quickly after graduation.

I also think that by working their way through college and delaying graduation, many of these students are working their way out of a diploma; they simply become too burned out.

Ensuring our Give Something Back Foundation scholars graduate on time is a priority if we want to be able to fund as many college educations as possible. Our mentoring program prepares the students to meet the rigorous demands of college while still in high school—so obtaining a degree in four years is all the more attainable. This kind of extra support can go a long way; it helps kids graduate sooner, gets them into the work force faster, and that helps the economy.

Making it possible for students to graduate in four years is financially responsible. It’s one of the smartest, most effective things that can be done to reduce the burden of student debt. The alarming statistics above back me up.