Students taking untraditional approaches leads to rising fall graduation rates

Saving money, travel are among reasons for graduating early



JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

A growing number of students are graduating in December, due to financial opportunities like running start and uncertainty about their majors.

Andrew Brewick, director of undergraduate admissions, said said there has been an increase in fall undergraduate and professional degrees from around 1,600 in 2017 to nearly 2,000 last year.

Students have been graduating in December rather than May because they already have some credits before coming to WSU, through programs like Running Start, and advanced placement classes in high school, he said.

“We often think of winter graduation being additive to the students’ situation, but there’s many situations where students are bringing credits with them,” he said. “It’s becoming more common for students to graduate in three and a half or even three years.”

Every student’s situation and reasoning for graduating when they do is different, but a few other common reasons students may graduate earlier in the winter is because they want to get started in their careers earlier and spend less money on school, so programs like Running Start alleviate that stress, Brewick said.

However, some students do graduate in the fall because they have stayed at WSU longer, he said. One of the more common reasons for that includes wanting to take more time to experience things, such as studying abroad.

“It is not common in the working world for a job for your boss to say, ‘hey, why don’t you take a semester in Spain and then come back?’” Brewick said. “It’s a rare situation where I hope students will engage.”

Another common reason for students to graduate in the fall is because they change their major, he said.

“We have students who come here who have a career plan and trajectory, often when they take a UCORE they realize they’re quite attracted to something else,” Brewick said.

Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications, said some students who graduated in the summer take part in Fall Commencement because they want to be in the ceremony.

WSU is one of the only universities to hold a Fall Commencement and there are some differences between that and the Spring Commencement, Weiler said.

“When we do our Spring Commencement, there are three ceremonies and we have people line up outside and march in,” he said. “We don’t do that in the winter because the weather’s not great.”

Weiler said there seem to be more people interested in Commencement, both in the spring and in the fall, in past years coming off of the pandemic.

This Fall Commencement will be at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“While the event starts at 10 it is important to remind people that they have to leave extra early. One reason is people might be surprised at the amount of traffic,” he said. “You need to dress warmly and wear appropriate shoes for the snow.”

Weiler said he has heard some students who do not think much of the Commencement ceremony, but students should consider the perspectives of those who helped them through college when deciding whether or not to participate in Commencement.

“About people participating, sometimes I hear people say ‘well I don’t know if I want to do that,’ but it’s just as much about your family as it is you,” Weiler said.

Those who would like to look into graduating in the winter should contact the Registrar’s office, Brewick said.