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Editorial: A smart plan to help students graduate on time

The Stony Brook University campus on Oct. 22,

The Stony Brook University campus on Oct. 22, 2013. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Graduating college as quickly as possible is a good idea for many reasons. The sooner you graduate, the less you'll pay for your degree, the less loan debt you'll likely incur and the faster you'll enter the workforce. Yet less than 40 percent of freshmen nationally -- including less than a third at public colleges -- graduate within four years. Stony Brook University beats those numbers -- its four-year graduation rate is 46 percent -- but school officials say they must do better. They're not alone in recognizing that. Now the university is joining others trying to shorten the journey to the diploma line.

Obstacles are many. Overcrowded classes and participation in internships and study-abroad programs can make the timely completion of required courses impossible. Changing majors exacerbates the problem. Some students run out of money. Stony Brook's sensible plan includes better academic counseling, more online courses to increase flexibility and a new fund for students facing economic hardship.

Higher graduation rates help schools recruit, but assisting students once they're enrolled is the most important benefit of Stony Brook's initiative. It's a course correction all colleges should embrace.