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College Degrees: The 3-Year Plan

Colleges around the country are making it possible for students to earn a full college degree in just three years. Currently, the national average to earn a bachelor’s degree is 4.7 years, but an increasing number of students are trying to save on tuition costs by finishing early. There have always been some students who’ve managed to graduate in three years by taking Advanced Placement courses in high school or by attending summer school, but now colleges are creating formal paths to lend guidance and structure to those who wish to graduate early.

In Ohio, colleges are required to clear a path for three-year degrees in 10 percent of their programs in 2012 – a figure that jumps to 60 percent by 2014. Colleges in other states, including the University of California and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, are following suit. Other schools that currently offer or are planning to launch three-year degree programs include Seattle University, Bates College, Hartwick College, Lake Forest College and the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.

The prospect of saving an entire year’s tuition may sound appealing, but some educators worry that academic quality could suffer in three-year programs, which sometimes waive requirements or require students to take very heavy course loads. Other critics note that college students often need the extra year to grow up. Restricting themselves to a three-year program can make it difficult to change majors or explore different fields. And in an uncertain economy, being able to make the leap from college to the workforce is far from guaranteed.

Do you think the three-year plan might be a realistic option for your student? Contact me if you want to know more!

Photo Credit: Agnes Scott College

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