Three-year degree programs not popular with students

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When we hit the Great Recession four years ago, I got all fired up about the many, many calls I got from people who said they didn’t have money for their kids to go to college.

So I immediately started going on and on about the three-year graduation track popular in Europe that can help condense costs. You don’t take summers off and you just go straight through to your degree. For schools, it allows them (in theory at least) to handle a greater number of people over time.

I thought this was a prescription that would be great for stretching education dollars in America. Schools thought so too and many launched three-year programs. So how’s it working out? The Washington Post reports not at all!

One school in Illinois has had zero people enroll in their three-year program even though it’s existed for three years. In another case, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has almost 18,000 students. They set up a three-year program and five people took advantage of it!

My alma mater, American University, is considered to have one of most successful three-year programs. They might have a student body of 10,000 people and out of those 10,000 people, just 58 have enrolled in a three-year program. It’s the same story in school after school.

Why all the lack of interest from students? As one who was interviewed said, “I want to have fun.” And we all know more years in college means more fun.

But this goes back to a core issue for me. Is college meant to be a transition to adulthood where your son or daughter gets a chance to grow up? Or is meant to instill a broader knowledge of things? Or is it a time and place to gain employable skills?

Let’s face it: Many parents can’t afford a “frill a minute” kind of experience for their kids. It’s not camp; it is to get a skill so they can earn a living.

I just never thought about the angle that nobody would pick on this because they wanted to have fun!  



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