The trend toward three-year college degrees draws opinions from both sides.
The economic downturn has strained the already tight budgets of college students to the point that many are looking to cut corners – and one way is by shortening their time in school from four years to three.
Some institutions across the nation are making it easier for students to get their degree and get out into the workforce more quickly, according to a Newsweek report published last month titled, “The Three Year Solution.”
“It is a good thing academically,” said Al Clark, associate vice president of academic affairs. “With summer school or an overload you can finish in three years. I favor it.”
“A three-year graduation program would be great for students who do not get a lot of financial aid,” said Amanda Santos, an intern in the office of academic advising and recent ULV graduate. “Students would be able to still have the private college experience just in a faster time.”
“They would not owe that much money after graduation,” Santos added.
Three-year college degrees are standard at some prestigious European universities, including Cambridge and Oxford in England.
American universities currently offering three-year degrees include Hartwick College in New York, Lipscomb University in Tennessee, Judson College in Alabama, Upper Iowa University, Bates College in Maine and Ball State University in Indiana, according to the Newsweek article.
Hartwick College gives students on the three-year the opportunity to take 40 credits a year and give them first selection during registration.
Lipscomb requires three-year degree students to take eight semesters, including summer school.
These programs are still the exception as it takes the average American college student six years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Critics of the three-year plan say such programs are not for everyone.
“Just a handful have adopted the program,” said Felicia Beardsley, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“It is a lot of pressure to put on a student. You lose the breadth of an education, but in a way you lose the depth of an education too,” Beardsley said.
“My feeling is that it is probably not a good idea for us right now,” said Greg Dewey, interim provost. “You lose some of the richness of the experience. It creates inflexibility. You have to know at the beginning exactly what you want to do. There is no room for exploration.”
Rita Thakur, associate dean of the College of Business and Public Administration, feels that students are capable of finishing their bachelor’s degree in three-years, even here.
“I have had several students who have graduated at the University of La Verne in three years,” Thakur said.
“Students who are ambitious, motivated and work with their advisor make that happen in the beginning. They pass every course they take and they do not take courses they do not need to graduate.”
Beardsley said that the three-year graduation proposal has been a nationwide discussion among university educators, which brings many questions into play such as: What tools do students need to succeed in this world? What constitutes a liberal arts education? What information should a student have when they finish?
“Right now a four-year degree is here to stay,” Beardsley said. “The job of the university is to ensure that students can step out into the world with the tools they need.
“It takes about four years to prepare someone to be an educated person. I do not think a student is ready after three years to step out into the world,” Beardsley said.
Aisha Gonzales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.