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A growing number of colleges are offering fifth year tuition-free programs. Find out how the programs work and which schools offer them.

I earned my bachelor’s degree in four years back in 2001. It seems I am in the minority.

The latest college graduation data available reveals that while 52.8 percent of students at private four-year colleges get their degrees in four years, just 33.5 percent of students at public four-year colleges graduate in four years.

The trend toward an extra year can be expensive, and some colleges are trying to help students out by offering them a deal: Earn your degree in four years, or the fifth year of college is tuition-free, CNBC reports.

Beginning this fall, the University of Evansville — a private college in Indiana — is offering a fifth year tuition-free guarantee to help students “afford a quality education that will lead to a quality life.”

CNBC says “several other schools” offer similar programs in an effort to get students graduated.

Tom Kazee, University of Evansville president, told CNBC that students have to fulfill specific requirements to remain eligible for the fifth year tuition-free guarantee, including taking a full course load each semester, passing all their classes and working with an academic adviser.

Other colleges — such as the University of Rochester, Clark University, Lehigh University, the University of Miami and Carnegie Melon University, among others — offer fifth year tuition-free programs, but those students have to complete their undergraduate degree requirements before they begin their fifth year.

A NerdWallet report says taking six years or more to earn a four-year degree can cost students $300,000 in tuition, student loan interest and missed income and retirement savings.

What do you think of the fifth year tuition-free programs offered by some colleges? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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