In high school, I was encouraged to take dual credit classes through a local community college called DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College). The thought process being, if I could get my general education credits out of the way faster, I could get into my major earlier, and therefore graduate from college to enter the “real world” as soon as possible.
It was in that moment that I realized, maybe I went through this whole learning process a little too fast, and I had definitely been taking it for granted. Maybe I’m not ready to graduate quite yet. What was my driving force anyway? What is really the root of getting through schooling as quickly as possible and out into the real working world? Money.
“We weren’t learning stuff like this when I was your age,” says my father.
It was my first or second year in high school and I was stuck on a math problem. It was one of those pattern ones where you are given a few numbers in a particular order, then a few blanks, and you have to figure out what the pattern is in order to figure out what the other numbers should be in the blanks.
I had honestly been at it for about an hour, and decided to bring in the big guns. Also known as the Parents—the see all, hear all, know alls, as far as I was concerned.
I asked my mother first, but she immediately turned me away and replied, “I don’t remember all of this, Jazmine. Go ask your father.”
Growing up, my parents were constantly making comments about the material I was learning, and how in “their day” they had not learned that material at “my age, that grade,” or claiming to never even learned that material at all.
The bar is being set higher and higher for children to learn more material in school sooner. From age 4 to 18, Preschool through Senior High School, kids are in school for approximately 14 years straight, give or take a few months for summer and winter breaks. Then, after those 14 years are expected to go straight into college for 2 to 4 years. Then possibly after that, graduate school?
The pressure is on for children growing up in the U.S., the rate at which we learn is increasing, and we are feeling it.
“Approximately 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs will require some postsecondary education,” according to, and online resource with the goal to help parents prepare their children for schooling from kindergarten to college prep.
The website also mentions 60 percent, possibly higher now, are offering Advanced Placement courses.
I cannot be the only one who feels these pressures. In fact, I know I am not.
“I thought it would be a good idea to graduate early so I could get a job sooner,” says Christine Madsen, a student in her third year at Morningside College.
Madsen was a 2010 graduate from North High School here in Sioux City, where college courses for dual credits were offered from Western Iowa Technical Community College (WITCC).
Bringing in 20 credits to the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) her first year at college, Madsen was already ahead of the game.
“While at UNI, I took 18 credits both semesters,” explains Madsen, “I was planning on graduating early.”
After a year at UNI, Madsen decided return to Sioux City and attend Morningside College where her father is a professor. And it was also here, that after some careful thought Madsen began to rethink her decision to graduate earlier than the expected four years she was told it would take her to complete her major.
“Everyone is different, so it could be a good idea for some and a bad idea for others. College is something that comes around once in a lifetime. I have the rest of my life to work,” says Madsen.
Also, Madsen’s father, being a faculty member at Morningside College, gets Madsen a discount on her tuition. Although that may not be the main reason she chose to transfer to Morningside, it is definitely a nice perk.
On the other hand, there are many students such as Mariah Stauffer, another student at Morningside College, who have made it very clear that money plays a big role. Stauffer is in her third year, but with enough college credits to be considered a senior at Morningside, she plans to graduate an entire year earlier than expected.
“After Morningside College I plan on going onto Medical School. I just wanted to get done with my undergraduate and move on because I knew I had a lot more school left,” explains Stauffer, “Also, I think I enjoyed the challenge of graduating early.”
Being a Biology and Chemistry double major, I’d say Stauffer definitely succeeded in overcoming such a tremendous feat.
These were just a few minor reasons for wanting to graduate earlier, however Stauffer added there was more to graduating early.
“I haven’t taken any loans out yet for school. If I stayed another year, I would be $15,000 in debt—not something I want,” says Stauffer.
A valid point made by Stauffer, the underlying reason to why students are trying to get through upper level education so fast? Money.
Upon asking a few others what their factors were for graduating early, I got similar responses to that of Stauffers.
“I think financial factors played a major role in my motivation for graduating early, and I also just thought it would be a good feat to accomplish if I could make it work,” says Kaitlin Gerber, a student who plans on graduating this spring with a Bachelors Degree in Biology.
“When I realized I could graduate early it was kind of a relief because of the whole financial [aspect], and the fact that I want to go to dental school which is an additional four years,” says Blake Schany, another Biology major and Chemistry Minor at Morningside.
Financial aid and further education are two major factors that should not be overlooked.
According to a story from the Associated Press on increasing student loan debt, “student debt has stretched to record number of U.S. households—nearly 1 in 5.”
The Pew Research Center located in Washington, DC conducted the research and found that 22.4 million households had college debt in 2010, which doubles from the number of households found in 1989.
I asked someone to estimate the average loan debt for the state of Iowa. Their guess: $80,000. Pew found the average loan debt for each state, Iowa’s being $29,598. Possibly not as bad as we all thought, but debt is debt.
I found out this year that I wasn’t going to be able to graduate a semester early like I had planned, and at first I was extremely upset. I cried, and then I called my mom.
“Jazmine, you will be graduating on time,” my mother said laughingly, “There is nothing wrong with that.”