Friday, September 14, 2012

A former colleague comments on SAT accuracy

A former colleague, one who also escaped from the clutches of the bully chairperson, quit at the same time I did.  He is now trying to start up a new business as an education consultant.  To try to build up his brand name, he started a new blog on education

Before I get into talking about Darrin's particular thoughts on the SAT, I want to encourage you to check him out as an educational consultant if you happen to live in the vicinity of Madison, Wisconsin.  I know he was always the guy I went to when I needed advice on how to handle issues in the classroom.  He also was a tremendous resource to our university in organizational and structural matters.  He was actually the first one to see the trouble caused by the department chair and encouraged the administration to look into it (although we all wish he had done so sooner--it would have saved a lot of us a lot of headaches).  All this to say, he is great at observing problems people are having and figuring out ways to solve them in a way that works out best for the students. 

Now, enough plugging his business and on to plugging his blog.  A recent study came out arguing that SAT scores do an overall good job of predicting college success, even for lower socio-economic status students.  Darrin makes an interesting argument that these findings don't seem to follow common sense and deserve further investigation.  Specifically, lower SES students don't have the same advantages on the SAT

For myself, I'm not sure what I think about this.  I'm not sure if this is relevant to Darrin's argument, but it strikes me that colleges try to compensate for SES-led deficiencies by offering extra classes at basic levels to catch students up.  I taught a couple of those myself.  I would think this advantage would somewhat counteract the disadvantage Darrin described in the SAT testing.  Or maybe it would make the difference worse...Let me think about it and come back to all of you on this. 

The main point of this post was to get Darrin's blog out in the blogosphere, and I must confess that he is stronger in this area than I am.  I encourage you to check it out at

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Do you want to get a Ph.D.?

Have you ever wondered about the process of getting a Ph.D.?  Well, if you want all the dirty details, keep reading.

I earned my Ph.D. from a top-10 program in politics and my wife is currently working on a Ph.D. in a top-5 program in sociology.  As a result, I am painfully aware of what it takes.  It involves a series of hoops to jump through:

1)  Get accepted into a Ph.D. program.  I'm going to be honest.  Too many people are admitted into Ph.D. programs right now.  There is currently a glut of Ph.D.s on the job market.  Too many universities have added Ph.D. programs to make themselves look better.  With too many programs come too many people graduating from said programs.  This comes at a time when colleges and universities are actually hiring fewer professors.

All this to say that it is much easier to get into a Ph.D. program than it has been at any time in history.  But, at the same time, having a Ph.D. is becoming more and more meaningless.  I know too many people with Ph.D.s who are working at restaurants and similar low-skill jobs.  In order to come anywhere close to being guaranteed a job after getting a Ph.D., you must get your degree from a top-10 program.  It is much harder to get into a highly-ranked program.  If your college grades and admission exam scores are less than stellar, you might consider getting a Master's degree first and then apply for the Ph.D. program.  Top programs are much more comfortable admitting someone who has proven they can do graduate school level work.

2)  Coursework.  The first two to three years of your Ph.D. program will involve taking classes.  Typically you will take three courses each semester.  If you are thinking, "Oh, that's not too bad.  I took more than that in college," you would be wrong.  Think about your toughest college class, triple the work load, and you now have an idea of a typical graduate school course.  First-year graduate students are also frequently surprised at the types of things you are expected to learn.  I'd have to say that in the first year of my graduate experience, I didn't learn a single thing about politics.  That's right, nothing.  In fact, I'm fairly sure that I knew more about politics than some of my professors.  Graduate school course work is highly specialized.  The higher-ranking the program, the more specialized the courses are.  My wife took one required statistics course that literally had no numbers.  (She was really confused.)

3)  Intensive work for very little money.  In order to pay for grad school, most people are either a TA or an RA.  A TA is a teaching assistant which, much of the time, means glorified grader.  You are essentially the slave of the professor teaching the class and you play whatever role that person tells you.  I TAed for one class where I was one of two TAs for a class of 300 students.  The professor was a particularly bad teacher, but liked giving lots of writing assignments.  The result is that I essentially had to teach 300 students the material in office hours while also grading 150 student papers once per week.

An RA is an indentured servant to a professor performing research.  You basically do whatever the the professor says while getting no credit for the work.  They also seem to forget how long it takes to do things.  Part of the deal is that you are supposed to work 20 hours in exchange for tuition and minimum wage.  However, if it takes you more than 20 hours to get the work done, that's just the way it is.  But if you put in too many hours, it takes away from your ability to do your own schoolwork.

4) Preliminary/comprehensive exams.  This is a particularly annoying hoop through which to jump.  You must decide two areas in which you claim to be an expert. Then, after your courses are complete (or near complete), you must prove that you are an expert in your areas.  You are given a massive, all-day exam in each area which is then evaluated by a committee of professors in that area.  Often there is one committee member who derives some sort of perverse pleasure from damaging graduate students.  In my case, there was one professor who scored everyone's test as a "fail" because we did not, "adequately cite from the work of our department's highly esteemed faculty" (even though the questions asked had nothing to do with the research of any of our faculty).  Different departments will do this differently.  The natural sciences tend to be easier than social sciences or humanities for some reason.  But, it is a painful hurdle through which we must jump.

5) Doing your own research.  After completing coursework and proving you are an expert in your areas,  you are now at the stage where you can start doing your own research (in addition to your TA or RA gig).  This is a major shift.  All of a sudden, you have spare time.  You are suddenly your own boss for 1/2 the time (in theory--depending on TA/RA status).  You set your own deadlines.  You schedule your own days.  You set your own priorities.  Your academic advisor may give you suggestions, but they are suggestions and there aren't any penalties, or even grades to encourage your behavior.  I've known a lot of people who did well in all the "hard parts" of graduate school but fell apart when they found their new freedom.

If you can handle the freedom, then your job is to come up with something that has never been said before.  You are to convince a panel of scholars that your work is "interesting", "new", and "academically rigorous".  The problem is that different scholars define those three things differently.  In my own experience, I had a conservative Roman Catholic, a Black church scholar, and the chair of Women's Studies on the same committee.  Looking back, I can say that it was stupid on my part.  It was extremely difficult to make all three of these individuals happy, and I consider my own dissertation to be garbage as a result.  I had to water down everything to make everyone happy.  It ended up wildly different than my own views just so I could finish jumping through this hoop.

But, if you are willing to jump through all these hoops, you too can get a Ph.D.  Just know what you are getting yourself into before you start.  It is a lot of work, and there is no guaranteed job after all the hoops are complete.  If you decide to pursue a Ph.D., make sure you truly love what you are studying, because I doubt that it is otherwise worth the effort.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Social Science Research bows down to political pressure

After receiving tremendous amounts of political pressure, the academic journal Social Science Research performed an audit of the publication of the recent controversial article by sociologist Mark Regnerus.  (Here are my thoughts on the Regnerus controversy.)  The Chronicle of Higher Education had a summary write-up of the audit's findings.

The audit found that the, "peer-review process failed to identify significant, disqualifying problems" with the study on children raised in homes where one or both parents has same-sex relationships.  It found that unbiased reviewers would not have let the study slide by in its definitions of "gay parenting".

I see three problems with this audit:
  1. The study wasn't about "gay parenting".  Regnerus was actually very careful to not make it about that because of difficulties in defining what exactly that is.  The study intentionally looked at the children of parents who had engaged in same-sex sexual encounters.  This avoided a lot of tricky definitions.  So, the result of the study was that children who knew one or more of their parents had experienced a same-sex sexual encounter had a harder time growing up and faced difficulties in early adulthood.  The objection arises that this isn't representative of "gay parents".  My response, to be blunt, is "no duh".  What the study shows, and what the paper's conclusions clearly said, is that it was promiscuousness and instability that were the primary problems for the kids.  Why should that have blocked it from being published?  To be honest, it matches every single heterosexual study I've ever seen on the topic.  Kids do better in a stable home environment.
  2. Some of the reviewers were biased.  I concede that.  For those of you not familiar with the peer-review process, it is basically a group of experts who read an academic article "blind" (they don't know who the author is) to evaluate its academic merit.  Here's my problem.  How are you going to find six unbiased peer-editors for this paper?  Almost every expert in this field is biased.  In fact, apparently two of the reviewers were biased against the Regnerus position.  They still thought the paper met academic snuff, despite being less than thrilled with the results.  (My guess is that they actually read what the paper was trying to say, not what it later got interpreted to say in the media.)  This brings me to my third point.
  3. The auditor was himself biased.  The auditor is Darren E. Sherkat, a sociologist at Southern Illinois.  As is the case with Dr. Regnerus, I've met Dr. Sherkat a couple of times.  Both times, and this stuck out to me as an Evangelical Christian, we were at a reception of some sort and he went on a tirade about how stupid and bigoted Evangelical Christians were.  His own research shows glimpses of this bias.  How did a biased scholar come to audit another scholar's work for bias?   My guess is that the journal was looking for political cover.  They found an auditor with biases of his own to placate the political uproar.  (Incidentally and conveniently, Sherkat found no fault with the journal editor.)
Now, having said all this, I want to point out something that is very important.  Dr. Regnerus is biased.  He has an openly-stated view on same-sex marriage and parenting.  This is why a conservative group gave him money to fund the study.  It may very well be that the paper was influenced by his bias, as I suspect the vast majority of academic papers on this topic are biased. If you want to attack Dr. Regnerus' work, though, be fair about it.  Give him the same treatment everyone else receives and attack him on the scholarship he actually did, not on the fact that a bunch of people didn't read his work carefully enough to know what he said.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is the Chronicle of Higher Education not being politically correct?

I must give credit where credit is due.  The Chronicle of Higher Education published an opinion piece by Notre Dame professor Christian Smith calling the scathing reception of Mark Regnerus's research a witch hunt. I made a similar argument in a previous post.

Unfortunately, I was surprised that the Chronicle posted an opinion piece from that perspective.  I supposed I shouldn't have been, since they also published opinion pieces about how universities should eliminate Black Studies programs.  (Of course, there was such an uproar that the blogger who posted that opinion was soon fired for doing so.  Fortunately Dr. Smith is not a regular contributor to the Chronicle.) The Chronicle, to its credit, seems willing to publish views that lie outside of academic orthodoxy, even if they don't have the stomach to keep such dissident views around for long.

I should note that I am not opposed to Black Studies programs.  I actually think they play an important role in academia.  The blog post linked to above was poorly thought out, in my opinion.  But, I want that perspective heard in the debate without getting shouted down without rational discussion.  I taught for five years at a Historically Black College and I exposed my students to a (more sophisticated) argument that Black Studies should be eliminated, even though I disagree with the position myself.

I think healthy debate is good for academia.  I just don't think there is an equal opportunity to present one's views.  I believe Dr. Regnerus was discriminated against because of the conclusion reached in his article.  I wish I could think otherwise, but the evidence to me is overwhelming.  He suffered from a politically correct witch hunt.  And, even if they are inconsistent with it, I must give credit to the Chronicle for breaking through the politically correct dogma and allowing a diverse opinion to be presented.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Why are college costs so high?

I get asked this question a lot--by students, friends at church, relatives struggling to get their kids through college,... So, here is my attempt to explain it.

The first thing to understand is that colleges cost a lot of money to operate.  They also cost a lot of money to build.  A friend of mine and I once figured out that it would cost $225 million to build a very basic college that could have 900 students.  Then you have to operate the whole thing.  Most colleges are in debt due to the costs of building.  They have to pay back building loans and such.  So, in addition to paying all the bills (electric, water, sewer, internet) and paying a significant amount of people to run all the operations (including teaching), colleges have to make payments on their loans.  There are wide variations in costs from school to school, but for a college of 900 students, without paying back building loans, you are looking at, on the low end, $7500 per year per student to operate.  If there are loans to be paid back, then the number goes up.  This also assumes a relatively low faculty salary.  You have to think of that $7500 as the very low end, which would leave you with substandard science, music, and sports programs; as well as very little in the student resources that most colleges offer.

Now, take into consideration the state schools.  Historically, tuition for in-state students was considerably lower than $7500 per year (even adjusted for inflation).  State schools were able to do that because the states were subsidizing them.  But, in the last few years, states have been cutting back on the subsidies due to larger budgetary issues.  As state funding has gone down, either tuition needed to go up or cuts needed to be made. Generally both took place.

Tuition could get closer to the baseline $7500 per year if students (and parents) didn't demand as much.  The things students and parents demand cost money--and that money has to come from somewhere.  For example, most  prospective students shun any institution that does not have fancy dorms, an extravagant student union, and a top-of-the-line cafeteria.  You would be correct to note that most of these are supposed to come out of "room and board" fees, but they don't always.

Next, students rightly prefer smaller class sizes.  But that means you have to pay for more faculty.  Let's run a little math.  Let's assume you are at a super thrifty institution and that your typical assistant professor teaches 4 classes a semester (which I can tell you from much experience is hard) and makes $50k per year.  If you want small class sizes, to be competitive with other institutions wanting the same thing, you would need to average 15 students per class.  That means that any given semester, a professor is teaching 60 students per semester, or 120 students per year.  That means for each class, each professor gets $416 for each student.  Each student takes an average of 5 classes per semester for two semesters and $4167 in tuition goes just to pay for faculty.  Now, if you double the class size, the amount paid to faculty salary is cut in half.  But let's say you are at one of those elite private schools where the professors are expected to publish a lot, and can only teach 2 classes per semester.  The assistant professor at these institutions will be paid at least $70k (on the low end).  Assuming a class size of 15, each student pays $1167 of their tuition per class.  Multiply that out by 5 classes for 2 semesters, and you get $11,670 per student in tuition just for faculty salary. You can see how this could add up quickly.

The cost of teaching has also gone up a lot due to technology.  If you are going to have a decent science program, you have to spend millions of dollars in equipment.  To have decent computing, you have to spend money on computer labs and campus-wide wifi networks.  Modern students are expecting technology in the classroom, which means you have to retrofit older classrooms or build new buildings.  All the software costs a lot of money.  The more technology you have, the more money it will cost.

The reality is that schools are competing with each other for students, so they have to do things like have nicer facilities and smaller class sizes.  If they don't, then they lose out on potential students.  State schools have something of an advantage here.  Since tuition is lower due to state subsidies, they don't have to compete as much for students and they generally save money with larger class sizes.  If they are Ph.D. granting institutions, they can have cheap graduate student labor.  (I remember one summer class I taught at the large state school where I got my Ph.D.  I had one graduate student to help with grading and I was given 350 students in my Intro. to American Government course.  The combined salary for my grading assistant and myself for that class was $2100, so the cost of salary per student was $6 per student.  The school made a killing on that one.)  But, why do so many students want to go to these giant schools?  Because of the programs, and the nice facilities, and the sports teams.  All of these cost money, so schools have to get creative in finding ways to cut costs (usually at the cost of the quality of the education).

The problems mentioned above are self-perpetuating.  The cycle of increasing tuition just keeps going because students keep demanding more and schools keep giving them more so that they can attract the students.  Eventually one would expect the bubble to burst, students would stop demanding so much and tuition would go down.  But there is one big problem: financial aid.  Federal financial aid programs enable schools to keep having high tuition.  There is no real incentive to control costs because students can just borrow more money to cover the costs.  Students borrow without really thinking about the long-term costs of the loans.  While it's true that student loans are a good deal as far as loans go, too many students rack up unreasonable debt.  (My fiancee is currently a Ph.D. student.  I won't tell you how much student loan debt she has, but my jaw literally dropped when I calculated the total.  But, every year she has borrowed at least $10k and she had been in school for a long time.  As a result of having this extra money, she lived a lifestyle not conducive to someone who is actually making a graduate student stipend.  When I calculated out for her the amount of money she would have to be paying every month  for the next 25 years to pay off the student loans, she was astounded.  She has been more frugal since.)  Schools, to keep up with student demands for stuff, have increased tuition repeatedly to provide more stuff.  The schools can't afford to not offer the stuff because then students would choose to go to a different school that does have the stuff.  Their cost/benefit analysis concludes that, due to student borrowing, it is more cost effective to offer the stuff and charge more in tuition than to lower tuition and lose students.

Some costs are outside the control of both the students and the institution.  One recent (last 15 years) phenomenon is the dramatic increases in the number of support staff at colleges and universities.  These are largely because the government instructs the schools to collect certain data.  You need people to collect, consolidate, and report on that data.  Many of these people have relatively high salaries because they have specialized skills in statistical analysis and programming.  Yet another additional cost.

Finally, and I know this one will sound weird, tuition keeps going up because schools are trying to recruit lower income students.  Let me try to explain.  In their push for diversity, most colleges and universities actively recruit low-income students.  These students, because they are more nervous about money, are less eager to take out large student loans.  So, in order to attract these students, schools must offer very generous student aid packages, basically paying their tuition, room and board for them.  Where does the money come from to cover the costs of these students?  Part of it comes from external donations for scholarship funds.  But, most of has to come from the tuition of those families "who can afford it".  So, to attract low income students, tuition for everyone else has to go up.

So, there you have it.  The vicious cycle of ever-increasing student tuition. I would love to hear your opinions on how to break the cycle.

Mark Regnerus and a politically correct academic witch hunt?

The July issue of Social Science Research, a fairly well-respected academic journal, published an academic article by sociologist Mark Regnerus entitled "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study".  It found that children of parents who had same-sex relationships had more difficulties as young adults.  As one might expect, after the study came out there was a firestorm of criticism about the study, Dr. Regnerus, and the journal.  

First, let me mention that I have met Dr. Regnerus on a handful of occassions and we have a number of mutual friends.  He seems like a nice guy, if a bit quiet.  He is openly Christian and a social conservative.  His views are not secret, and the study results mirror his views.  

My wife, who is a sociologist, believes that the study's findings are bogus.  I asked her to show me what, in the study itself, she found to be problematic.  She couldn't.  I looked around further and the only complaint I found about the study itself was about where Regnerus found his respondents.  Given my experience in academia, this seems to be a flimsy complaint. Finding respondents for a new study is notoriously difficult, and getting better respondents requires more money.  It costs a lot of money to get top-notch respondent pool.  The majority of studies are like this one and have a "good enough" pool. There's also the issue of what a "better" respondent is.

Most of the complaints about the study came from people complaining about the funding source of the study.  The money came from the Witherspoon Institute, a think tank known for its socially conservative viewpoints.  There were complaints that the study didn't come from sources such as the National Institutes of Health or an academic source.  Personally, I don't believe the Witherspoon institute is any more biased than the NIH or most academic sources.  I've been concerned with a variety of biases at these institutions for years.  At the very least, their funding trends indicate biases.  There are very few funding sources I can think of for this topic that wouldn't have bias one way or another.  While it isn't ideal, it is what it is.  If the study itself is good, I'm not as concerned with the funding source.

A second point of complaint is that it looked like the study was rushed through in record time.  Whereas most academic journal articles will take at least a year from submission to publication, this article's timeline was two months.  While that is fast, it is not unheard of.  Speedy publication happens fairly often in public policy research, for example.  If there was some collusion to speed the study through, that would be a source of concern.  Having it go through in two months doesn't bother me so much.

A third point of complaint is that the commenters on the article in the journal were themselves on the same research project.  This one is odd.  Commenters are generally selected by the journal and are experts in the particular topic.  The two commenters in this case were not "established scholars" having never published on the topic of lgbt parenting.  Giving the benefit of the doubt, here's what I think might have happened.  When you submit a paper to some journals, you get asked for the names of people who know about your subject to serve as commenters.  The two commenters were probably mentioned by Regnerus because they were two of very few people familiar with the study in question.  Let me emphasize that this is still not ideal, but I'm not convinced it was as nefarious as some would lead us to believe.

Here is what I suspect may actually be happening.  I want you to imagine that a study came out finding that the adult children of lgbt parents turned out better than children of a traditional monogomous two-parent home.  Imagine also that all of the irregularities I mentioned in the previous three paragraphs were true of this study.  Would there be a national firestorm about it?  I sort of doubt it.  I doubt anyone except a few socially conservative, academically inclined outlets would even notice the irregularities.  And, no matter how much they screamed, I doubt mainstream press or academia would pay any attention.  

Now I could be absolutely wrong about all of this.  There might be an equally vociferous complaint.  I doubt it, though, because I have never seen it happen.  Think tanks fund studies that get published in academic journals all the time.  Speedy publication happens all the time.  Commentators who are somehow connected to the author get published all the time.  I think this particular case is getting all the attention because a scholar dared to present a study that violated academic political correctness.  Now his career is at risk, despite being tenured.  

After all this, I have to plead ignorance on the quality of the study itself.  It is well outside my field and I am not familiar with the methodoligies.  For all I actually know, the study might be academic garbage.  If that is the case, the study should be attacked on the grounds of it being academic garbage.  Having seen my share of academic garbage being printed in academic journals going virtually unnoticed, though, I doubt the firestorm has anything to do with the quality of the research itself.  I think Dr. Regnerus dared step into politically sensitive territory and came out on the wrong side of the politically correct line.  

I could very well be wrong and welcome any input on how I am misreading the situation.  In some ways I hope that I am.  I may very well be biased myself because I have felt personally discriminated against because of my Christian faith. But I have seen this pattern before--where Christian scholars can't come out of the religious closet until they are tenured, and even then they can't publish on the topics they want in most academic journals because of a refusal by those journals to even look at those topics.  Regnerus got into a journal, and look what happened...


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Academically Adrift?

About a year and a half ago a book came out that set the academic world aflutter.  Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by sociologists Richard Arum and Jopisa Roksa argue, essentially, that colleges aren't doing their jobs.  (For purposes of full disclosure, my fiance knows both of the authors and is in regular correspondence with Roksa.  I haven't met either one, but just in case, I wanted my readers to know there might be an influence.)

First and foremost, I should note that even though the book has received a lot of mainstream attention, it is not written for mainstream readers.  It is an academic book with an academic audience in mind.  If you aren't accustomed to reading "social sciency" material, I would highly recommend reading good summaries.  Even with advanced degrees in the social sciences, some of the tables intimidated me and gave me flashbacks to dreaded statistics classes.  But, if you can get past that, they have some important findings that I think those of us in the higher education field should take seriously.

Perhaps their most important finding is that students are not learning how to do higher level thinking.  45% of students did not demonstrate a significant improvement in learning after 2 years of college and 36% of students did not demonstrate a significant improvement after 4 years.  (Just a technical note, "significant" doesn't actually mean "a lot" in this type of context.  It means something like, "enough that we don't think the difference was accidental".  A significant improvement can actually be very small when dealing with technical statistics.)

So, what was the cause of this seeming failure of colleges?  Arum and Roksa argue that there are a few influences, but by far the largest is a lack of academic rigor.  Basically, we professors are being too easy on the students, and not forcing them to improve their learning and thingking skills.  Other findings include students not spending enough time studying (because they don't have to because the classes are easy), students are spending too much time socializing and working jobs, and the studying that does take place is in less than ideal settings (especially "studying" with friends). In perhaps their finding that got the most people mad, they found the students in business, communication, education and social work majors overall had significantly lower levels of higher thinking skills.

I want to emphasize that I have not done any scientific research and the following is based strictly on personal observations.  In other words, these are just my personal, very unscientific thoughts:

  1. Students tend to take the easier courses with easier professors when they can.  Then, to get class numbers up, faculty are somewhat pressured to ease up on the work so they can increase their class sizes.
  2. The rule of thumb for studying is that you should spend 2 hours outside of class for every hour you spend inside class.  When I work with students and they lay out how they spend their weeks, it is usually the inverse.
  3. Too many students do lack higher thinking skills.  It amazes me.  Constantly.  I can't figure out how some of these students got into college, let alone how they managed to survive so long in college.  Given their thought patterns, they shouldn't be passing 2/3 of their classes.  (Of course, I am under pressure to give such students a C just so we don't have to continue to deal with them.)  
  4. Some majors do a much better job of teaching thinking skills than others.  While it will change from institution to institution, I recognize some of the same trends as the book authors.  However, to be positive, I would like to cite philosophy departments for doing a supurb job with their students.  (Although, to be fair, there is probably a selection bias there since only students interested in higher-level thinking would become a philosophy major in the first place.)
  5. While some students appear to me to be lazy, some are honestly over-worked.  Those who are trying to work a 30-hour per week job to pay for college are shooting themselves in the foot.  If you take 15 credit horus (roughly the average course load on a semester system), you will be in class 15 hours per week.  If you do spend the amount of time doing school work, 2 hours outside for every hour inside, you are up to 45 hours per week to be a full time student.  If you then work 30 hours at a job, you are up to 75 hours.  A typical 19 year-old won't be able to do that.  So what gets lost? Doing work outside of school.  When I show this math to these students, I tell them that if their financial situation is really that bad, they shouldn't be a full time student.  Take fewer classes.  It's okay to take longer to graduate.