5 Reasons Students Don’t Graduate (And What Ashford Is Doing About It) | Insights from a Student Advisor

By Ashford University Staff

Student studying

Shawn Mangerino served students as an advisor for more than eight years at Ashford University. During that time, he helped students from all walks of life pursue their educational goals by providing them with the right tools and support. In his first installment, he addressed the question: Does your school really care about you? Here, he shares expertise about online education and student development from the advisor’s side.

The path to graduation is not always a straight line, especially for students pursuing a non-traditional college experience. The Education Advisory Board (EAB) recently published the article The 5 Reasons—Other Than Cost—That Students Don’t Graduate, which includes a startling statistic: 59% of students don’t graduate within four years. Now, if you’re one of those students, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t hold it against yourself.

But for now, let’s go over the EAB’s reasons and look at how some schools are doing things differently, and paving the way for student success.

Reason 1 - They tried unsuccessfully to juggle work and school

What I’m surprised about most is that there are still students who only go to school. As education becomes more accessible, potential graduates are now able to participate in higher education with their families and jobs in tow.

Ashford has created online programs designed for students with limited flexibility and resources. Have a tight work schedule? Ashford discussions and assignments are asynchronous, meaning you can participate on your own schedule. Can’t commit time at home for studying? Log in from your smart phone, tablet, or laptop and take school with you.

Reason 2 - No one told them how many credits to take

Being full-time does not equate to graduating on time. Students need to understand how their course schedules and credit loads will affect their graduation date.

To ensure efficient degree progress, Ashford assigns a dedicated advisor to every student to ensure students take the most efficient path to graduation. The advisor’s goal is to keep every student informed and on track. Ashford also offers pre-evaluations for prospective students so that you have an idea of how your transfer credits will be put to work and what it will take to graduate before you submit a single assignment. And speaking of transfer credits…

Reason 3 - They transferred schools, but their credits didn’t come with them

According to the EAB, a third of students transfer schools but only 40% actually get credit for their previous coursework. Ouch. Students need to understand that a university accepting transfer credits is not the same thing as applying them to a degree program.

This one is easy. Ashford notifies students when their credits are officially evaluated, and the results are accessed within the degree progress report located in the student portal. This report shows everything related to a student’s degree program: credits transferred, earned, needed, GPA, and an estimated graduation date. That way, students see how their transfer credits are being put to work.

Reason 4 - They fell into the ‘exploration’ trap

Unfortunately, many students lack focus in choosing their courses. Minds and programs change, and that wasted time and money become huge obstacles in finishing a degree.

Ashford’s course selection process is overseen by advisors. That means you choose your program, and your advisor builds your schedule. Your advisor will make sure that your courses advance you toward graduation. If you’re considering changing your major, your advisor will walk you through the impacts and options and make sure all that hard work doesn’t go to waste.

That’s not to say students don’t have flexibility with course selection. Bachelor’s students, in particular, have a range of minors and specializations that may be applied to the elective requirements. General education requirements often have multiple course options. You have the freedom to choose any class you’re interested in for electives so long as it’s not considered duplication or regression. Master’s students often can also choose a specialization.

Ashford also now offers an Honors College for high-achieving undergraduate students who want to undertake advanced curriculum in a way that will make their resume shine.

Reason 5 - They didn’t get involved

As it turns out, community support means a lot. A LOT. In my previous blog post, “Does Your Advisor Actually Care About You,” I explored the troubling (but not uncommon) reality that many students lack the support system necessary to persist in school. And it’s not just about someone to help you through the inevitable hard times, but it’s realizing how special it is when someone is proud of us.

One of the coolest programs coming out of Ashford is CHAMPS Peer Mentoring. CHAMPS pairs new students with seasoned upper-class students who can share their experience and provide support and encouragement.

The end result? CHAMPS mentees do awesome. Many relationships last well beyond the seven-week program. Is it any surprise that our mentors keep coming back to help more mentees? And by the way, it looks fantastic on a resume.

There’s a point here, and it’s this: If there’s a challenge you’re facing, you’re not alone and you can bet that Ashford has the resources in place to support you.


Written by Shawn Mangerino, Lead Student Success Coordinator at Ashford University.


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Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.