How many can finish bachelor’s in 3 years?

As college costs rise, many states are exploring three-year bachelor’s degrees at public universities, reports College Bound. Increasingly, students arrive with Advanced Placement or dual-enrollment credits. If they’re willing to work hard, they can save money and start earning earlier.

However, The Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree: Reform Measure or Red Herring? leans toward the herring.

Not many participate in these fast-track programs. It’s not suited for many students who work, rely on Pell Grants (which are no longer available year-round), or lack the academic preparation for college, the report suggests.

Getting a program going has costs and requires key changes in campus operations. This investment may not pay off without widespread student participation.

Then there is the concern over rushing the college experience. Some may need four years or more to really develop critical-thinking skills, become engaged in campus life, and make full meaning of their new knowledge.

Fast tracking works only for motivated, college-ready, AP-credit-bearing students who don’t want to pay ever-rising college tuition for four (or five or six) years of engagement in campus life. They could graduate, get a job and eat pizza with their work buddies. Surely there are enough students of this type to motivate colleges to design three-year degree programs.

College in 3? Few choose fast track

The three-year bachelor’s degree isn’t catching on, despite soaring college costs and high school graduates with lots of AP credits, reports  the Washington Post.

“A lot of students are interested in it,” said Dave McFadden, executive vice president of Manchester College. “A smaller number of students sign up for it, and an even smaller number finish it.”

Completing in three requires students to pick a major immediately, pass up irrelevant electives, extracurriculars and junior year abroad and study when others are partying. Students say they’d rather enjoy the college experience then get into the job market a year early with less debt, the Post reports.

Motivated students with lots of AP credits can complete a bachelor’s degree in three years without signing up for a special program. They just do it. Some stay for four years and add a master’s degree. But these are excellent students who know exactly where they’re going.

CNN Money charts the growth in tuition vs. income. Four (or five or six) years of college is a luxury item. Costs are much higher for those who don’t live at home.

As portrayed on the left axis, median income has hovered around $33,000 since 1988. Meanwhile, college tuition and fees -- portrayed on the right axis -- have more than doubled.

As portrayed on the left axis, median income has hovered around $33,000 since 1988. Meanwhile, college tuition and fees — portrayed on the right axis — have more than doubled.

How to do a $10,000 degree

A $10,000 bachelor’s degree is a realistic goal, writes Publius Audax, a humanities professor at a Texas university, on Pajamas Media. Gov. Rick Perry wants state universities to offer a low-cost path to a degree. Texas should pick 25 of the most important and popular majors and design three-year bachelor’s programs, Audax proposes. Then the curriculum could be streamlined by “eliminating all electives and standardizing all required courses.” The state would need 412 courses to meet requirements in 25 majors.

Select the state’s top scholars and scientists to design the courses, videotaping the best lecturers, purchasing the copyright of the best textbook materials, and designing a suite of web-based learning tools. This would require a significant one-time investment of approximately $500K per course, for a total of $200 million.

. . . Require all state universities to offer all 412 courses to their students at a cost of only $250 per, plus $400 per semester for registration services and IT support. If a student took five courses per semester for three years, the total cost per student of the degree would be $9,900. Each student would be given free access to the state’s library of videotaped lectures, the online textbooks, and the web-based tools. The university would provide online discussion sections and laboratory sections.

For each instructor teaching 150 students, the state university would receive $75,000 in tuition, he calculates, not counting the administrative fee.

The low-cost, low-touch degree would be backed by an exam to demonstrate mastery.

Provide mandatory state-wide standardized tests for each year of each program, providing an accurate measure of student learning. The College Learning Assessment, as well as CLEP and GRE Subject exams, could be used to measure students’ progress in critical thinking, logic, writing skills, and discipline-specific competencies.

Well-prepared, motivated learners could earn a $9,900 degree in three years. The average college student, shaky on math and writing skills and used to hand-holding in high school, isn’t likely to make it without a lot more support. But it would be very interesting to see how many students would rise to the challenge in hopes of saving time and money.

Fixing higher ed

The Washington Post’s Daniel de Vise looks at eight ways to improve our higher education system

1. Measure student learning
2. End merit aid
3. Three-year degrees
4. Core curriculum
5.More homework
6. Encourage completion
7. Cap athletic subsidies
8.Rethink remediation

Here’s the online discussion and go to College, Inc. for more ideas from education leaders and entrepreneurs.

Certificates are path to success

On Community College Spotlight:  For many students, earning a vocational certificate “can be the most direct path to college completion and career success,” says a new report.

To save money, the University of California may expand online classes and encourage students to complete a bachelor’s degree in three years.