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The cost of taking a ‘victory lap’

Why taking a fifth year to finish your degree might not be such a great idea
The cost of taking a 'victory lap'
Time means money. No, really. The more time you spend at school the more it will cost you. Photo credit: iStock

It’s okay to not have your sh-t together when you first head off to college. At that point in your life, you’re still just a kid trying to figure out this big scary world. This is why so many students take an extra year to finish their four-year degree with what many call a “victory lap”.

But with so much talk about the student debt crisis these days, how much can taking an extra year earn your degree add to your running balance with banks and student loan providers? According to a new study published by the Lending Tree, entitled “The Victory Lap”, they found that while taking an extra year may help students balance campus life and their studies at a reasonable pace, the added cost can be more than most students bargain for in the long run.

In this study, they found that by taking five years to graduate instead of four it may cost a student “between $29,000 (for in-state public tuition) and $52,000 a year (for private tuition) in principal and interest over the life of a typical student loan.” This amount will increase drastically for students who are paying out-of-state tuition.

The study also shows that the highest rate of students taking these victory laps has been found at schools with larger graduating classes. “Schools with 30,000-40,000 students have the highest rates of fifth-year seniors,” the study says, “with 20.6% of students taking five years to graduate. Schools with 2,000-5,000 students have an average of 10.6% of students graduating in the fifth year.”


In connection with these statistics, they found that only 10.2% of undergraduate students from smaller private schools feel the need to take an extra year to earn their degrees while 16.3% of public school undergraduates feel they need more time.

In fact, the top five schools with the highest percentages of students graduating in five years all seem to be public schools.

Iowa State University (27%)

North Carolina State University at Raleigh (27%)

The University of California, San Diego (26%)

Western Washington University (26%)

Texas A&M University, College Station (25%)

By taking all of this information in, the connection is clear. By attending a school with an overwhelmingly large graduating class, you run the risk of losing focus on your studies and may need to take a “victory lap” in order to complete your studies. The only downfall to taking this extra time is that you could be adding a couple more digits to your already mounting student debt.  

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