Read More: A B.A. in Three Years?
With the recent layoffs, a stagnant economy, and student loans continuing to wreak havoc among many students who graduate college, an idea like this makes absolute sense.
It amazes me how politicians left and right from President Obama to Rick Perry have been trying to find solutions to these education problems, but never seem to consider a seemingly simple, but obvious way to cut college costs.
It may seem outrageous to some, especially those who are already working in an education related field, but the amount of time a student spends in college should be cut by a year. With publications such as The New York Times reporting of the extremely dismal unemployment rates for law school graduates and the number of law office jobs that have been on the decline since as early as 2004, students who don't end up finding employment are having to deal with debts as high as $1200 a month, or $98,500 in student loan debt total when they graduate from what seems to be law school degree mills.
The amount of time in which American students and British students complete their degree programs differs by around a year. This paragraph explains in more detail.
Mead’s observation is fair enough. But there are important differences between the British and American models that make them hard to compare. British students do take their undergraduate degrees in just three years. But they commit before beginning classes to a particular field, which dominates their work at university. British students, in other words, don’t apply to a selective university with a record of general academic ability, and then choose a major after a few years of exploration. Rather, they apply to enter a specific course—say, English—on the basis of success on content-based exams (GCE Adanced, a.ka. “A level”).
Already, this is sounding like a far more sensible system than the one being used currently in the U.S. The reason that British students are also able to complete their degrees in just three years is due to the fact that they have already shown a mastery of the introductory material and skills. It kind of reminds me of those Advanced Placement courses that one can take depending on which high school the student attends. The fee to take an AP test is $89 according to College Board, the not-for-profit organization that developed the common entrance exam or the SAT test and the PSAT. They are also responsible for the Advanced Placement Program and the examinations that students take in order to receive college credit, depending on what score (ranging from 1-5) that they make on the AP test. Scoring a 3 means that the student is qualified. It is the minimum score required by many colleges in order to receive college credit.
The British system ensures that students don't have to worry about trying to be successful in every subject and allows them to be more focused on specific disciplines or subject areas. There is also much less emphasis on "trying to find one's self" or studying abroad. It is strictly business within the British system and not as much wasteful filler. Goldman ends with this paragraph.
But a three-year plan also involves an entirely different institutional context for admissions. That doesn’t only mean selection by members of a particular faculty rather than an independent admissions office. It also requires exams that measure achievement in specific subjects, and high schools capable of preparing students for these exams. In short, degrees that allow student to accomplish in three years what now takes four is appealing goal. But it can’t be realized by just chopping a year out of their time in college.
Whether certain colleges would be willing to changing their admissions process to reflect this would be another story.