Three-Year Degrees Catching On

By Staff
October 13, 2009

Some experts are touting the advantages of graduating college in three years, and at least some students are taking that advice to heart.

The Whitworthian, a student publication at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, reports that a record number of students who began their studies in 2006 graduated in three years. All together, 27 students graduated a year early--nearly 6 percent of the class.

"My sense is that [the upward trend] will probably continue, at least until the economy improves," said Fred Pfursich, vice president of admissions and financial aid. He noted that an increasing number of students are entering college with some credit, which is contributing towards the trend.

"Many students have more than enough credits when they enter to finish at least a semester early," he said.

Students at other institutions are also earning degrees in three years. At least two schools, the University of Houston-Victoria and Hartwick College in New York State announced plans this year to create new three-year degree options.

Robert Zemsky, chairman of the Learning Alliance for Higher Education, told U.S. News & World Report that colleges should embrace the idea. "Right now, it takes students way too long to finish their coursework for what is supposed to be a four-year degree," he said. "Creating a schedule at college today is like walking down the aisles of a supermarket--one of this, two of that, show up at the cash register and get your degree. People get lost with all that choice, and the main reason why people take so long to complete their requirements is because they didn't realize what courses they needed to take to stay on track until it was too late."

Julie Wootton, who graduated from Whitworth in three years, noted that cost definitely was a factor in her decision. "College is expensive," she told The Whitworthian, "and obviously my parents were happy that I could graduate early."

Yet the Associated Press [from an article originally located at] reports that cutbacks in college faculty and courses are actually having the opposite effect: It is becoming more difficult to earn degrees in a reasonable amount of time. At Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Oregon, for example, about 400 students don't have even one of the courses they requested.

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