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Universities try 3-year degrees to save students time, money

Universities try 3-year degrees to save students time, money


Elaine S. Povich
May 30, 2024
With college costs rising and some students and families questioning the return on investment of a four-year degree, a few pioneering state universities are exploring programs that would grant certain bachelor’s degrees in three years.
The programs, which also are being tried at some private schools, would require 90 credits instead of the traditional 120 for a bachelor’s degree, and wouldn’t require summer classes or studying over breaks. In some cases, the degrees would be designed to fit industry needs.
Indiana recently enacted legislation calling for all state universities there to offer by next year at least one bachelor’s degree program that could be completed in three years, and to look into whether more could be implemented. The Utah System of Higher Education has tasked state universities with developing three-year programs under a new Bachelor of Applied Studies degree, which would still need approval by accreditation boards.
More than a dozen public and private universities are participating in a pilot collaboration called the College-in-3 Exchange, to begin considering how they could offer three-year programs. The public universities include the College of New Jersey, Portland State University, Southern Utah University, the Universities of Minnesota at Rochester and at Morris, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and Utah Tech University.
Proponents of the three-year degree programs say they save students money and set them on a faster track to their working life. But detractors, including some faculty, say they shortchange students, particularly if they later change their minds on what career path they want to follow.
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