Time to completion of the baccalaureate degree has increased markedly in the United States over the past three decades. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of the High School Class of 1972 and the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, we show that the increase in time to degree is localized among those who begin their postsecondary education at public colleges outside the most selective universities. We consider several potential explanations for these trends. First, we show that changes in the college preparedness and the demographic composition of degree recipients cannot account for the observed increases. Instead, our results identify declines in collegiate resources in the less selective public sector and increases in student employment as potential explanations for the observed increases in time to degree.

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