Some Students Earning Degrees In Three Years

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
July 16, 2009

In an effort to cut back on escalating higher education costs, some students are earning college degrees within three years while a number of institutions are creating new three-year options.

The Associated Press [from an article originally located at http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iipye3NKRNQ6akA_DbOrRFAw9XUwD99EC51G0] reports that Nina Xue decided to pursue a fast-track bachelor's degree at Rice University in Texas after realizing that doing so would save her family about $40,000. She did not originally plan to graduate within three years, but realized that earning a quicker degree was possible when she combined her 26 AP credits, the credit she received studying abroad one summer, and the more than 15 hours of classes she took over two semesters.

Meanwhile, the University of Houston-Victoria recently announced plans to offer a three-year degree for students interested in cutting higher education costs--the first such program offered by a public university in Texas. University officials said that families will save about $12,000 over the cost of the typical four-year program.

"It's terrific. It expands students' choices," said Terry Harle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, who was quoted in the Houston Chronicle. "The fewer years you spend in school, the more years you have in the work force, earning a living."

Critics argue that graduating in such a short time doesn't allow enough time for social interaction and intellectual exploration. "The concern has to do with whether you lose some of the edifying aspects of education that end up being useful to us later in life," explained Barmak Nassirian, spokesman for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, who was quoted in the Chronicle.

Moreover, few students choose to graduate early. According to the most recent statistics from the Department of Education, just 4.2 percent of U.S. undergraduates earned a bachelor's degree within three years. And according to the College Board, the average student spends six years earning a degree at a public institution and 5.3 years at a private school.

Nevertheless, the fast-track program at UH-Victoria is an idea that seems to be catching on. In February, Hartwick College in New York State announced plans to implement a three-year degree that would save students about $40,000. That same month at the American Council on Education's annual meeting, Tennessee's Sen. Lamar Alexander recommended that colleges consider three-year options.

That students and institutions are willing to shave off a year of college to save money may very well reflect a growing pragmatism about paying for higher education in general. In a nod to the trend, The Wall Street Journal reports that because of today's economic climate, families are now much more inclined to weigh price and value before picking a college than they used to.

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