From the front page of today’s Washington Post, another reminder that federal subsidies for higher education are sometimes being used to purchase a four- or five-year party for students, and not just an education. When offered a chance to compress their own studies into a three-year period, potentially saving themselves and the government many thousands of dollars, few students are seizing the opportunity.
Reformers have hailed the three-year degree as the potential salvation of higher education: a rewrite of the academic calendar that lowers the price of college by compressing it into 36 months. Several institutions have launched three-year degrees in a flurry of activity triggered by the economic downturn that began in 2008. Political leaders in at least two states, Ohio and Rhode Island, have instructed public colleges to offer accelerated degrees.
But students have not responded, and most three-year degree programs have flopped — a reminder, college leaders say, that students still regard college as an experience to be savored. Why rush the best four years of your life?
Who says three years is a rush? When looking for solutions to political or economic problems, I don’t normally look to Europe for answers. But this case is definitely an exception. The British have long operated on a three-year bachelor’s-degree system. In these lean economic times, perhaps it is high time for us to follow their example.