With the presidential election a little over a year away, one question voters are asking candidates is: How are we going to solve the issue of student debt? There have been a number of different proposals – none of which have come to fruition – but one of the latest ideas, the idea of the Three Year Degree, is among the most interesting.
Three-year colleges are not even a new concept. In many countries in Europe, it is already the norm. So, what would happen if we made a three-year bachelor’s degree an option? What would happen if all U.S. colleges and universities were required to make that possible?
In today’s world, a surprisingly high number of students – 60.5% at four-year schools, according to a recent study – take about six years to complete a four year degree. Trying to squeeze the already hard-to-accomplish goal of acquiring a degree in for years into a three-year package, some would argue, might not be the best idea. That’s why schools need to take a different approach. Don’t require students to take four (or, you know, six) years’ worth of classes in a three-year span. Instead, restructure the curriculum to make the degrees fit into a three-year plan more neatly.
This can be accomplished in a few ways. Reduce the number of required electives. Reduce the number of core requirements, or allow students to start earning those credits in high school. Shorten semesters to fit more in a year. It would require some creativity, but it’s absolutely doable to create plans that allow students to graduate in three years without being overworked.
This shortened plan offers a number of benefits. For one, students would leave with 25% cheaper tuition, saving them an average of $8,893 for in-state schools and $30,094 for private schools. This, in turn, creates the benefit of less student borrowing, which means they can repay their loans more quickly and, therefore, pay less interest (students would average paying about $1,876 less in interest fees). This is just an average, too – for many, the savings would be far more significant.
Also, consider this: America’s college completion rates are quite low in comparison with the rates of other countries around the globe. A shorter completion period might make the program less intimidating, and could potentially boost those rates.
For those who do complete their bachelor’s programs and still have lots of schooling ahead of them, this would allow them to get into the working world a year sooner.
Earning a college degree is the dream for a lot of American citizens, but for time and cost purposes, it’s often not a reality. Making college cheaper and less of a time commitment could mean that we have more skilled workers in the employment pool and more happy degree holders. It’s worth considering.