A bachelor’s in three years? Colleges just got a green light to get in the game.
Mar 2024

A bachelor’s in three years? Colleges just got a green light to get in the game.

Merrimack College and New England College are working on shortened degree programs, and others should take a careful look at an approach that could lower costs.

By The Editorial Board

Offering a lower-cost, shorter degree could increase chances of student success. Over the years, college tuition and fees have steadily risen, and many graduates leave school with enormous student loan debt. Around one-quarter of first-time bachelor’s degree students and 40 percent of all undergraduate students drop out before obtaining a degree, according to the Education Data Initiative, often for financial reasons.

Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a nonprofit focused on improving educational quality, suggested that colleges could cut electives, revise core curriculums, and still offer a quality education. “A well designed 90-credit-hour program could get students ready for work and citizenship without the financial and opportunity costs,” Poliakoff said. “For accreditors to dig their heels in and say only a 120-hour program will be sufficient is simply ignoring reality.”

There are existing tests that measure how colleges are performing and whether students are learning, which could be used to assess how much students are learning from a shortened bachelor’s program compared to a traditional degree. As Michael Horn, an education writer and lecturer at Harvard who cofounded the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, said, “I’d much rather be certifying demonstrations of learning as opposed to focusing on is it three years or is it four years.”


Leave a reply