Struggles for super seniors

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 4th, 2017 at 4:53 PM

The path from convocation to college graduation is challenging, winding and sometimes, longer than expected. What is it that keeps students at their university past the average four-year mark?

It could be a number of personal things, such as needing to take time off to care for one’s self or family, or it could be academic struggles like confusion over which major to commit to.

To receive financial aid and live on campus, a student must be full time. Full-time students must take at least 12 credits each semester they wish to use these resources. Mathematically, though, it is impossible for a student to take this many credits each semester and still graduate in four years. Change may be coming at Edinboro in regards to the 12-credit semester.

“We are working hard to make sure the expectation is that you do 15 because if you don’t, you will be here for longer than 4 years or [have to] take summer classes,” Aarron Hunsinger, academic success coordinator at Edinboro, said. “People might not like me for saying that but I think that’s a cool concept. You’re paying to take full time course work, which is 12 to 18 credits, so you should be taking at least 15, and if you’re a superstar, do 18 and get your money’s worth,” he continued.

Even if a student takes 15 credits a semester, when one chooses to change his or her major also greatly affects how far set back they would be, said Hunsinger, giving the example of the nursing major, which needs to be completed chronologically.

“So, I would say a major change is not inherently a bad idea,” Hunsinger said on the topic.

“It really just depends what direction they’re going. Major changes aren’t really a bad thing if they’re done with intent and with education and understanding of why they’re being done. People should not switch majors over and over and over and over just until they find something they like,” Hunsinger continued.

Be it due to smaller amounts of credits, academic struggles or financial stresses, not graduating in the societally average amount of time can have a broad range of effects on the students.

What is it like for students to be a super senior?

Academically, “just in general it sucked,” former Edinboro student Ryan Moyer said. He graduated in May of 2015. “Every semester when you’re ticking off the semesters and thinking ‘holy crap how much longer do I have?,’ it makes everything seem longer.”

Socially, school can be a tad awkward for students who are taking a few extra years to complete their degrees. “As an older student, sometimes I can feel out of place,” junior Steve Wensel said. Currently a wood furniture major, Wensel switched majors more than once, leaving him in college longer than planned. “My biggest challenge was finding my passion, and honestly the math and science classes. I’ve never been strong in those subjects, and they presented harsh challenges,” he said.

“Even if I’m only 23, compared to 18 year olds that’s still a hefty enough gap for me to sometimes feel left out or old,” he continued.

“For your social life, it just makes you feel left behind, since all of your friends will leave before you, which can be a challenge,” senior Jake Shuman said of his experience. He is in his final semester here at Edinboro. Shuman also had a major change somewhere along his collegiate path. He went from art education to a major in individualized studies, concentrating in geography.

According to super senior Wensel, scheduling has played a major role in keeping students at Edinboro past their eight semesters. “Beyond mistakes I’ve made, the thing that really makes getting a degree in 4 years near impossible is scheduling classes,” Wensel said. “So many people don’t get the classes they need to move on and complete their schooling in four years because the classes are too small, or they don’t have enough faculty to man more than one class. It’s ridiculous, and it hurts so many people,” he continued.

Edinboro University has 6,550 students enrolled in total, according to the university’s website. There are 351 full- and part-time instructional faculty, leading to an 18-1 student to faculty ratio. This ratio is dispersed amongst the 123 baccalaureate degree programs, 16 graduate degree programs, 10 associate degree programs and 10 certificates offered at Edinboro.

This appears to be enough to make it possible for students to graduate on time, but competitive scheduling makes it difficult. Scheduling at Edinboro is based upon (mostly) class level standing, Hunsinger said.

“The further along you are in your program, the better off you are as far as being able to get the classes that you want. Personally, if a student has done everything that they should, I’ve never heard of a student not being able to graduate because something was not available to them. Perhaps, maybe, they didn’t pay their bill until the last minute and all the classes were taken up,” Hunsinger said.

“I really don’t think that’s a huge concern,” he concluded. The title of the super senior is not one a student should strive for, even though it is catchy. Yet for these students, their time in school – albeit a few semester longer – was still a positive experience. “I think extending your stay at college could ruin the experience for some people, but for me it gave me a chance to really meet some wonderful people and I’m sure it is the same for others as well,” Shuman said.

“The journey is important after all, I just hope the goal is too,” Wensel said.

Hannah McDonald is the assistant news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at

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