Unable to graduate — or walk with the class

To Castleton State College’s seniors, May 14 is the day they have been waiting for since they stepped foot on campus four years ago. Cap and gowns have been purchased and students are just trying to survive the coming weeks. But while many are day-dreaming about walking across the stage and being handed their diploma, some will be left out. Some students are finding out they are unable to get their diplomas or even walk at graduation at all.

History major Caitlin Lovejoy was informed that she is six credits short of graduating. Lovejoy petitioned to walk, but received a letter over spring break informing her of the criteria she would have to complete to reach that goal.

“I have to do all the graduation requirements and register for two classes to take over the summer,” she said.

Lovejoy plans to complete the six credits she is missing at CCV during the summer, but with a 2.1 G.P.A, she worries she may not be able to walk at the ceremony.

“To walk you normally need a minimum of 2.0, but you have to have a G.P.A of 2.5 if you petition.that’s fucked up,” she said angrily.

Lovejoy is not the only senior feeling the burden of graduation. Occupational therapy major Alexandra Aschbacher-Thompson also won’t be getting a diploma, although she is able to walk. Thompson transferred here from the University of New England and like Lovejoy, is two classes short of graduating.

“When I first found out I didn’t have enough credits to graduate. it really set me back and it was kind of emotional. But then I realized it’s not that big of a deal because it gave me time to figure out what I want to do next,” Thompson said. “All my frames and major requirements are filled, it’s just extra credits I need. I’m kind of psyched about it though. It’s kind of like a free gift. It’s a gift of time I gave myself on accident.”

Thompson is looking into traveling abroad or doing a summer internship to finish the credits she is missing.

Giggling, she sarcastically notes, “CCV is always offering classes. I can take whatever I want. I could take bunny-petting 101 and wine tasting.”

But just how many students are short of credits and missing graduation day with their peers of the last four year?

Castleton’s Chief Academic Officer, Dean Joe Mark, commented on how Castleton’s average is roughly around the national average.

“The federal government’s standard for reporting graduation rates is the six-year graduation rate. I’ve got data on the class that entered in fall 2005. After four years, 30.1 percent of them had graduated and 22.2% of the class was still enrolled. After five years, 49 percent of the class had graduated and 2 percent remained enrolled,” said Mark.

According to Tim Johnson of the Burlington Free Press, the national average for graduates in a six-year graduation rate is roughly 57 percent.

How does this happen?

Lovejoy believes that the criteria Castleton sets for its students are too much and the college does a poor job regulating the classes individuals choose to take.

“They leave a lot up to you to take classes and graduate on time,” she said.

Dean of Students Dennis Proulx believes that all programs are able to be completed in a four- year window, but extra requirements and other time commitments sometimes make it difficult for students to obtain their degree on time.

“My understanding is that there are certain degrees, such as social work, education, and nursing that there’s not only classes, but a number of certain hours you have to meet. There’s a number of factors that pushes it out further for licensure,” said Proulx.

Ella Kibler, a former student at Castleton, ran into this problem during her senior year in 2010. She waited until her final year to complete the writing folder, and was told she failed a little over a month before she was set to get her diploma.

“The first time I failed, I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me. The second time I did. It was really close to graduation and I was freaking out,” said Kibler.

Senior Eva Belatski encountered a similar problem this year. She waited to take her quantitative reasoning exam and failed the first time.

“I was immediately scared when I saw that I failed by two points. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to receive my diploma because I had difficulty with math my whole life. I was angry that I waited until my senior year to take the test but knew I had put it off for that reason. Thankfully, I passed the second time,” Belatski said.

While some students are trying to finish up their last few weeks at Castleton, those who know they are unable to participate in graduation are coming to terms with their nervousness, anger, or in cases such as Lovejoy’s, disappointment regarding the issue.

“It sucks. I worked my ass off for five years. It’s not even about my family- it’s about I can’t walk across stage and hear my name called,” she said.

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