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Graduate in three years?: A three-year degree may be the solution to rising costs of higher education
Travis Schott
Antelope Staff
Photo from Internet

Students at UNK must complete a minimum of 125 credit hours to earn a bachelor’s degree. In order to accomplish this in four years, they must successfully complete 16 hours per semester. According to UNK factbook, just 22.4 percent of those students who enrolled as freshman in 2004-05 are on schedule to graduate in four years. Additionally, graduation rate information fails to reflect the number of students who already attained advanced placement credits while in high school.

It may be safe to assume many of those students actually procuring a degree in four years likely amassed some college level credits before enrollment at the university level.

The truth is, according to an October Newsweek publication, the average time it takes students to procure an undergraduate degree in the U.S. has recently stretched to six years and seven months. As the time it takes to graduate escalates so does debt, meaning a UNK student would end up paying $30,402 over six years. These estimates don’t include room and board, books, food, entertainment or any other miscellaneous fees.

To combat rising tuition fees, and due to a fledgling economy, some colleges across the U.S. have begun offering three-year undergraduate programs. In Europe, three years has been the norm for some time; however, in the U.S. four-year college curriculums have been the standard since before the American Revolution.

Some schools currently offering three-year programs across the country include Ball State University in Indiana, Bates College in Maine and Iowa’s Waldorf College. Many other universities across the nation are also currently considering the option.

UNK currently has no three-year programs in place, but Dr. Charles Bicak, senior vice chancellor of academic and student affairs, feels a three-year alternative would require attention if demand grew.

“We will have to remain open to all alternatives. If we fail to remain open to the delivery of academic options to our students, we are missing the boat,” Bicak said.

Individuals electing to complete three-year programs stand to save 25 percent on tuition fees, but in the long run condensed undergrad programs could potentially lead to more hikes in tuition. Universities would likely have to construct additional facilities and increase faculty numbers. The workload for faculty could conceivably increase.

On some levels Dr. Keith Terry, professor of communications tends to agree. “Larger workloads could potentially increase for faculty, but it would most likely result in students experiencing a more advanced curriculum and the need for more faculty would likely be required.”

It is possible to obtain your undergraduate degree at UNK in three years, but it takes a high level of commitment. The numbers reflect few are willing to tackle such an undertaking. According to UNK factbook, 1.5 percent of students enrolling in 2006 are on schedule to  graduate this year. Once again, however, these statistics neglect to note what percentage of those students already had college credit from another university or how many are transfers.

Three-year degrees are definitely not for everyone. After all college is not just about the gaining of knowledge and academics, it’s about the social experience and the acquisition of life lessons not presented anywhere else.

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