Monday, March 01, 2010

Enter The Three-Year Degree

With college costs skyrocketing, the economy contracting, and America falling behind international competitors in the all-important educational arena, is the three-year undergraduate degree an "idea whose time has come?"

Although the four-year degree has been the predominant model for higher education in the U.S. since before the Declaration of Independence, three-year degrees are standard at England's Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and more than a few American colleges have been experimenting with the "express degree" idea for some time, now.

The idea has it's adherents as well as it's naysayers. Molly Corbett Broad, current president of the non-profit American Council on Education and former president of the University of North Carolina, lauds the idea. Derek Bok, president emeritus of Harvard, is a detractor.

From an article appearing last May in the Washington Post:

At Chatham University in Pittsburgh, a three-year bachelor of interior architecture will be offered without summer courses, allowing students to get into the job market a year earlier, school officials said. School officials reconfigured the four-year degree by cutting the studio classes from 14 weeks to seven.

"It's a creative solution to a lot of different things," said program director Lori Alexander. "Students enter the workforce quicker, they save a year of tuition and they can go on sooner for graduate study. And no, they aren't missing anything. Academic quality stays the same."

If three years is too long to wait, Purdue University's College of Technology has begun offering a two-year bachelor's degree!

Are quickie degrees a good idea?

Undoubtedly, for those able to handle the increased work and stress load, the economic savings and other advantages may outweigh the downside of compressing the traditional four-year undergraduate education into just three years. For those more affluent students unable or unwilling to give up their non-academic lives for three years of ultra-intense academic commitment, however, the four-year model will almost certainly be a better fit.


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