Paul's Here

Colleges Consider 3-Year Degrees

5 posts in this topic

In an era when college students commonly take longer than four years to get a bachelor's degree, some U.S. schools are looking anew at an old idea: slicing a year off their undergraduate programs to save families time and money.

Advocates of a three-year undergraduate degree say it would work well for ambitious students who know what they want to study. Such a program could provide the course requirements for a major and some general courses that have long been the hallmark of American education.

-----------------

"Most high governmental officials who speak of education policy seem to conceive of education in this light -- as a way to ensure economic competitiveness and continued economic growth," said Derek Bok, president emeritus of Harvard University. "I strongly disagree with this approach."

-------------------

The most recent statistics from the Education Department, from 2001, show that 4.2 percent of U.S. undergraduates finished with bachelor's degrees in three years, 57.3 percent graduated in four years and 38.5 percent took more than four years to graduate.

--------------------

At a February conference of the American Council on Education in Washington, Alexander said a three-year bachelor's degree for motivated students would cut "one-fourth the cost from a college education" and save students considerable time.

"I think we are going to see more colleges offering the three-year degree and better marketing," said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the nonprofit council and a former president of the 16-campus University of North Carolina.

------------------

As if three years isn't enough of a departure, Purdue University's College of Technology in Indiana just announced a two-year bachelor's degree starting this summer. It is aimed at educating unemployed auto and manufacturing workers but is open to anyone, created with the idea that workers whose companies are eligible for federal economic stimulus funds would go to school while receiving unemployment checks, a school spokesman said.

Johnson Sattiewhite, 21, a junior at Howard University, is taking five years to get his bachelor's degree because, he said, he did not decide to major in advertising until his sophomore year and needed to catch up on course work. A three-year bachelor's might work for some students, he said, but many need more time.

College, he said, is about more than academics. It involves social networking and learning how to deal with life.

"We have four years to set up our future outside of college," he said. "Why give up one?"

3 Year Degrees

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But critics said they fear that an undergraduate's academic and social experience would be compromised by shortening it to three years. College would tilt more toward job training and away from the broad-based education many U.S. schools have offered.

"Most high governmental officials who speak of education policy seem to conceive of education in this light -- as a way to ensure economic competitiveness and continued economic growth," said Derek Bok, president emeritus of Harvard University. "I strongly disagree with this approach."

Bok was objecting to serious college education being limited to narrow job training, as opposed to learning about the world and how to think. That vs. economic success is a false alternative.

There is nothing inherent about 4 years as a requirement for a college education. There is a trade-off in how much one learns before starting to produce, and the requirements for education depend on the interests of the person and what he wants to do. That is why there are advanced degrees that take longer.

But an attempt to make today's college education more efficient in its use of time is secondary to the glaring lack of quality and proper standards to begin with. In many university curricula, they may as well shorten the time required to 3 years -- or to 2 or 1 or 0, and replace 4 years of partying and destructive courses with a week or two of practical job training.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The primary problem is the lack of a real secondary education. Many, including me, learned little in High School; in point of fact, I can not recall learning anything. It deprived me of 7 hours each day in which I could apply myself to things that I valued, like ancient history, philosophy, and mathematics. The obvious resulted, I had to learn in college what I should have learned in High School. Luckily, the Engineering curiculum, relatively speaking, is still demanding. I remember Statics and Dynamics hit me like a brick wall, not because it was particularly difficult, but because I had to actually try.

So, I would say the primary problem with college is primary and secondary schools.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The primary problem is the lack of a real secondary education. Many, including me, learned little in High School; in point of fact, I can not recall learning anything. It deprived me of 7 hours each day in which I could apply myself to things that I valued, like ancient history, philosophy, and mathematics. The obvious resulted, I had to learn in college what I should have learned in High School. Luckily, the Engineering curiculum, relatively speaking, is still demanding. I remember Statics and Dynamics hit me like a brick wall, not because it was particularly difficult, but because I had to actually try.

So, I would say the primary problem with college is primary and secondary schools.

I can relate to this. I learned almost nothing in high school, and I went to an excellent high school (relative to other high schools). I did have a good chemistry teacher in high school and that helped. In college I took to Statics well. Dynamics was tougher, but I enjoyed it. The higher the degree of difficulty in my engineering courses, the better my grade was. General education was a chore for me but I did really enjoy Philosophy.

When I see the extent of the extracurricular activities of college students these days I can't help but think that college has gotten easier. I would not be surprised if a proposal to shave a year gets legs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The primary problem is the lack of a real secondary education. Many, including me, learned little in High School; in point of fact, I can not recall learning anything. It deprived me of 7 hours each day in which I could apply myself to things that I valued, like ancient history, philosophy, and mathematics. The obvious resulted, I had to learn in college what I should have learned in High School. Luckily, the Engineering curiculum, relatively speaking, is still demanding. I remember Statics and Dynamics hit me like a brick wall, not because it was particularly difficult, but because I had to actually try.

So, I would say the primary problem with college is primary and secondary schools.

Agreed. This 3-year idea sounds like a typical American band-aid--let's do something completely pointless, because we can't make any changes of actual value, just to make it look like we are doing something. The most significant problem with education in America is not at the university level. Why anyone would even bother tinkering with college when our primary and secondary education is so worthless, is beyond me. If educators want to shorten college by 3 years, that would be easier to do if so much time did not have to be wasted in college teaching students basics, like composition and research skills, that they should have learned in secondary school.

I taught at a university for a couple years, and it seems to me that each incoming freshman class is less prepared than the previous one. At the same time, more people seem to be getting graduate degrees in the U.S. than ever before. My point is that the American educational system is so flawed, and babies students to such a degree, that they are learning less and less over longer periods of time. What I learned in second grade, some of my students did not learn until 5th grade. What I might have read in 7th grade, my students didn't read until 9th grade. (I was less than a decade older than my students.)

So, would switching to a 3-year system lead to an increased dumbing down of college curricula? That would be unfortunate because despite the increasing number of fluff courses at universities, one can still be challenged by university programs if one chooses to pursue a challenging course of study. I can see no other alternative for their plan, under the current circumstances, considering that it does take many students 5 years or more to graduate from college today.

Considering a motivated student can already graduate today in 3 years with AP credit, full course loads and summer school, I'm not sure what the point of changing the college system would be.

The only solution to America's education woes is privatization and parental responsibility. Anything else is just an exercise in futility.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites