WSU sees decrease in fifth-year seniors

Students are graduating earlier; changing majors, work



Internships, work and changing one’s major contribute to the decision to attend WSU for an additional year.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

Recent data from WSU’s Institutional Research shows 21.6% of students from 2017 are current fifth-year seniors — a 2.4% decrease compared to the fifth-year senior population in 2021.

The percentage of fifth-year seniors has been on a downward trend since 2011 with a 0.1% spike in 2015, said Saichi Oba, vice provost for enrollment management. In 2011, 26.5% of students continued to a fifth year.

More students have been graduating in three years, most likely due to students coming to WSU with college credit or transfer credits, he said. Nearly 90% of first-year students come to WSU with transfer credits, said Terese King, assistant vice provost. 

“There’s no big jumps and no big losses. Interestingly, more people are finishing their degrees in three years,” Oba said. “That number did increase, in fact it almost doubled between 2011-2018.”

Many students take an extra year to graduate because they decide to change majors or have less time for both school and work, he said.

“Looking back, even when I went to college, the norm was to get out in four years,” Oba said. “I think over time in the past 25 years there’s been a general acceptance that some students will take longer to finish their degree.”

Jonathan Nickels-Slayter, fifth-year accounting and management double major, decided to stay at WSU for an additional two years due to Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps requirements. He initially attended University of Fairbanks for two years before changing majors and transferring schools.

As he is just beginning his fifth year, Nickels-Slayter said he does not anticipate it will be much different than his last four, with the same credit load that he is used to. He anticipates some more added responsibilities with Air Force ROTC.

One of the biggest hurdles students should plan for when anticipating staying at college beyond four years is the financial aspect, Nickels-Slayter said.

“Financials [are] definitely a big thing because there’s rent and having to account for food payments and car payments and just general tuition,” he said. “Extending to a fifth or sixth year is definitely a big thing. Luckily, I received a scholarship for the ROTC Air Force division that covers most of my tuition.”

Nickels-Slayter said he would advise any students who are interested in staying at college for additional time to plan out their decision for at least two years in advance. He planned for his extended stay four years in advance. 

Benefits of being a fifth-year senior include giving students more time to focus on school and lighten their credit load, he said. 

“Extending to a fifth year does give you the flexibility to focus on time and take care of yourself,” he said. “I would definitely say it’s been a positive experience.”

King said extending students’ time at WSU beyond four years allows them to have a full undergraduate experience.

“This generally means they’re working internships or studying abroad, maybe [pursuing] a double major,” King said. “Another reason is some students don’t want to take fifteen credits a semester. Some want to slow it down a bit.”

King said it is important for students who chose to take an extra year of college to prepare to pay for additional education. Another way students can possibly save money is to take summer courses rather than staying at WSU for an additional year. 

If students want to graduate on time, Oba said he recommends students contact their academic advisor.

“Those are always folks who can help them stay on track,” Oba said. “In Pullman, they have the ASCC. That resource is for students who maybe are getting close to graduating and need help. I think one thing to always kind of keep in mind is some students’ plan is four years, some students’ plan is five years.”