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Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

Fifteen to Finish arrow2 Finish in Four

Dear students of Harriot College of Arts and Sciences,

A college degree is the best investment you will ever make in your life, adding significantly to both your annual income and your lifetime earnings. Having a college degree also decreases tremendously the likelihood that you will be unemployed.

Your university experience was designed to be completed in four years. Some students may have excellent reasons for pursuing double majors, certificates, or other qualifications that slow down their progress. Other students may experience financial challenges or family obligations that prevent them from graduating in the normal timeframe. However, it has long been determined in higher education that four years of full-time attendance would provide sufficient time for students to gain both a general education and a deep specialty in one or two areas.

We advocate that students participate in student abroad, field schools, internships, and other forms of experiential learning, and a well-designed trajectory should accommodate these enriching experiences within that four-year timeframe. In fact, ample evidence indicates that students who participate in these activities graduate at a higher rate, in a shorter time, and with greater academic success.

If you aspire to go to graduate school, your application will be viewed more favorably if you finished your degree in time. Employers will see you as a goal-oriented person who stays on task.

Finishing your degree in time means that you can begin earning a salary earlier in life, and you will save money on tuition and fees. Clearly students who take 5 years (10 semesters x 12 credits per semester) will have to pay 25% more than students who finish in four years (8 semesters x 15 credits per semester). These increased costs lead to greater indebtedness.

The simplest way to reduce your own indebtedness is to complete your degree in a timely fashion since each additional semester costs you both in terms of student loan debt and lost wages. Almost half the students in the College of Arts and Sciences do not take the 15 credit hours each semester that would be necessary to complete their degrees on time.

What can you do to graduate in time and lower your costs?

  • Enroll in a full schedule of 15 credits every semester.
  • Consult DegreeWorks to track your own progress.
  • Meet with your advisor often to learn how you can Finish in Four

Invest in your future success by finishing in four years.

  • Save money on tuition, fees, and other costs
    • Even a single extra semester adds $8500 ($16,500 for out-of-state students) in costs once you add tuition, fees, and living expenses
    • Remember that tuition and fees are the same for 12 hours or any amount beyond that.
  • Begin earning an income earlier in life
    • Long-term financial well-being is enhanced by the number of years of earning capacity.
  • Reduce overall indebtedness
    • In 2015, 68% of ECU graduates had student debt, averaging almost $28,000 ( Project on Student Debt). Over the lifetime of the loan, students can end up paying additional tens of thousands of dollars in interest, depending on many factors. You can project your own indebtedness here.
  • Reach goals earlier in life
    • Go to graduate school, get married, have kids, buy a house, and make your contributions to your community.
  • Take 15 credit hours each semester. If you complete 15 credit hours every semester, in most cases, you will graduate in four years (exceptions: a few degrees require more than 120 hours). If you register for 15 hours and drop a course, you will begin to fall behind. Look for semesters when you might catch up by taking 18 hours. Dropping courses, failing courses, and transferring between institutions all slow you down.
  • Enroll in summer sessions to catch up or get ahead on hours. Credit-bearing internships, field schools, language programs, or study abroad programs in the summer can enrich your education tremendously.
  • Ask for help. If you are struggling in a course, seek assistance from your faculty members, tutoring, advising, etc. Create study groups with your peers. Having to retake a course means more time and money. If the course is a pre-requisite for another course, poor performance could delay your progress by a semester or more. See Academic Resources on the right side of this page.
  • Decide on a major early. If you are undecided on your major, do your research! Meet with the Career Center, talk to your advisor, use the Internet, etc.
  • Track your progress using degree works, major check sheets, and four-year plans. See Academic Resources on the right side of this page.

Below is a list of estimated expenses for an ECU full-time student living on campus during the 2016-2017 academic year. Full-time is considered 12-18 credit hours and the cost is the same regardless of the number of credit hours. Students will get the most value for their money by taking more than 12 hours per semester.

All costs are subject to change pending legislative approval.

  North Carolina Resident
(12-18 credit hours)
Out-of-State Resident
(12-18 credit hours)
Tuition $4,365 $20,323
University Fees $2,581 $2,581
Room and Board $9,841 $9,841
Total (per year) $16,787 $32,745



Taking an extra year to graduate can mean an additional $17,000-$33,000 of expenses. Not spending $17,000 at the age of 23 is the same as saving it until retirement. Even at the modest rate of interest (5%), that savings equates to more than $130,000 by retirement age!

See Financial Resources on the right of this website for tools to assist in planning.


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