The mission of 4&Out is to make higher education more accessible, more predictable and more affordable.
An initiative of Mindworksusa, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, 4&Out was created to address the problem of rising college student debt that increases at the rate of over $2700/second. In fact, in the three minutes it takes to read the content below, student debt will have grown by nearly $500,000. This figure is discouraging enough but it does not include other debts that fly under the radar such as borrowing by parents using home equity as collateral, and raiding retirement funds and other nest eggs to cover the growing cost of college.
Worse yet is the tragic reality of losing some of our best and brightest students at the altar of the seemingly insurmountable specter of college costs. There are many approaches to dealing with this 21st century reality but they would all require some form of Congressional participation and that is not likely in the foreseeable future. But what we can do, and what 4&Out is committed to doing, is limit the conflagration to some degree by putting a cap on the length of time it takes to obtain a college degree.
In a recent major study of American colleges (Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 2016), students were tracked beginning with the fall of 2010. By the spring of 2016 (6 years later) only 55% had received a degree. Not graduating “on time” in four years has significant financial ramifications for students and their families. What is the actual cost of college “overtime”? Students or parents still have to pay for college tuition but there is more. If students were not languishing in college for an extra year or two, they would likely be going on to graduate school or beginning a career earning between $30,000 and $50,000. These “opportunity costs” when they are folded into the college-cost mix makes those extra years very expensive at any enrollment price. There are even more implications for not graduating on time.
The under-funded federal financial aid system (that makes many colleges innocent victims) was built on the supposition that college is a four-year commitment. When completing college takes longer, and in the absence of massively greater funding levels by the federal government, there are fewer dollars available to those students who finish school in regulation time. This shortfall is manifested in “gapping” the aid to families, the practice of awarding families less need-based aid than their income and wealth might require under the federal needs analysis methodology. That shortfall is almost always filled by additional student and parent loans.
4&Out encourages colleges to GUARANTEE a degree in four years or provide an extra year or even two tuition-free if the college fails to provide sufficient classes and courses needed for a degree. The guarantee also requires certain student behaviors to assure that the degree will be completed in four years.
Since the 4&Out guarantee is so compelling, students are likely to be better, more purposeful scholars during their enrollment at a 4&Out college. Colleges will appreciate this; parents who pay the bills will love it; students will like it (less debt and lower opportunity costs) and the national economy will applaud it. With the 4&Out guarantee, everyone wins!