On-time graduation initiative may face surprising difficulties

Starting in the Fall 2017 Semester, Queens College, a senior college part of the CUNY system, will offer a new program that is meant to motivate incoming freshmen to graduate within four years, the New York Daily News reports.

The program will offer undergraduate students access to academic advisement and priority registration in order to ensure that students graduate on time.

To qualify for the program, the newspaper further explains, students must take 15 credits in the Fall 2017 semester and earn 30 credits per year.

Queens College President Felix V. Matos Rodriguez believes that 1,500 freshmen will sign up for the program.

Queens College’s current graduation rate stands at 30 percent for its undergraduate students. However, this rate is based solely on the number of students who graduate within four years.

The article does not explain the consequences if the students do not meet the yearly requirement.

On one hand, Queens College should be applauded for motivating students who are trying to graduate on time. With about 19,000 students, it is likely that classes at Queens College can fill up quickly. Freshmen who do not have priority registration may log into CUNYfirst only to find out that the classes they picked out for the next semester are already closed. Thus, priority registration would strongly benefit these students.

However, there are several factors that make the program seem unsustainable or doomed for failure.

The Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York has long reported that CUNY needs to hire more professors and pay fairer wages to both full-time faculty and adjunct professors. A program that requires students to maintain 30 credits per year may put more strain on understaffed colleges. For example, some professors may be asked to give their lectures to a larger number of students. Therefore, in order for the program to work, colleges may need to invest in hiring more faculty.

The program also puts some students at a disadvantage. Students who work full- or part-time in order to pay their tuition or bills will now be forced to register after students who have the time to take 30 credits per year.

CUNY officials might have a lot to consider before the program is implemented, especially if they plan to expand it to other colleges.