Accelerated Degree Programs are Growing in Popularity – But They Aren’t for Everyone

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Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on October 14, 2015 at 10:01 am
Accelerated Degree Programs are Growing in Popularity – But They Aren’t for Everyone

The rising cost of college is on everyone’s mind, and students and their families are constantly looking for different ways to save money. One way that’s gaining traction? Accelerated degrees.

These programs come in many forms, whether it’s taking online college credits before starting school or finishing a traditional degree program in three years or less. And while they’re not for everyone, they are becoming more accepted among different degrees.

One example? Nursing. According to Rasmussen College, in 2004 there were around 6,000 students enrolled in accelerated nursing bachelor degree programs. That number increased to 13,605 in 2010. By 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be more than 526,800 new nursing jobs. With such a big unmet need, nursing students are motivated to finish their studies so they can enter the workforce sooner – as a result, they are enrolling in two or three-year programs.

Meanwhile, a study from New York thinks MDRC, which looked at the effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study In Associate Programs (ASAP) for developmental education students, found that ASAP improved students’ academic outcomes over three years, with graduation rates nearly doubling. Of the study participants, 40 percent in the ASAP group received a degree, compared to 22 percent in the control group. What’s more, MDRC found at the three-year point, the cost per degree was lower in ASAP than with non-ASAP programs.

When it comes to accelerated college completion, the two most common forms are fast-track college programs and alternative credit providers. With the formal programs, students take more courses per semester and graduate earlier – or earn multiple degrees in a short time frame. Alternative credit providers, on the other hand, offer bachelor’s degree completion programs that allow students to earn credits away from a college or university and then transfer them. Most of these programs are found online.

“Accelerated degree programs are for anybody who wants to save time and money on their degree program,” says Jessica Bayliss, director of education at online alternative college credit provider Study.com. “But accelerated degree programs allow students to spend less upfront and enter the workforce sooner, which make them very attractive now that tuition is so high.”

Accelerated degree programs can be found everywhere

Although accelerated degree programs lend themselves to particular focuses of study, they can be found in all sorts of areas and in many different schools, whether it’s a community college, a private institution, state school or for-profit. Boston University, for example, offers a two-year accelerated degree completion program that leads to a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Computer Science or Management Studies.  Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio offers accelerated degree programs geared toward working adults in the School for Professional Studies, and Florida State College in Jacksonville is yet another example of a school with an accelerated degree program. “Accelerated programs are for motivated students who have a very good grasp of what they are looking for in terms of a degree and major,” says Paul Hassen, a spokesman at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “You have to have a certain level of maturity to be able to follow through.”

Fast-track programs get you in the workforce sooner

For many students, an accelerated degree program is attractive because it means they can start working sooner and reduce the cost of their higher education. That was the motivation for Sabriyyah Khawaja, an 18-year-old from Arlington, Texas, who will be starting college at the Art Institute of Dallas in October and who decided to take some college courses at Study.com before entering school. “I have to try and bring tuition down as much as I can, and that’s why I’ve been taking online classes, because saving money will help out my family a lot. It’s also allowing me to graduate sooner,” says Khawaja. ”Each 11-week quarter at Dallas is costing us around $5,000. Every course that I can take online is saving me around $1,000.” Khawaja is using Study.com to take general education credits to keep costs down and to get a leg up on non-core credits before entering school. “Take advantage of as much of it as you can. College is expensive, you want to get as much out of the way as you can before you start. Otherwise, you’ll just waste a whole lot of money on nothing,” she says.

Accelerated degree programs aren’t for everyone

Undoubtedly, there are benefits for earning an accelerated degree. But there are also risks. For one thing, this isn’t the type of degree for students who are still finding themselves or who are unsure about their course of study or future career, since they have less time to explore different options and change their mind about majors. Students in accelerated degree programs also have to be disciplined and able to handle an intense workload.

“Education is a critical stepping stone to career success and high lifetime earning potential, but it’s not necessary to get into heavy debt in order to get an education,” says Bayliss. “Accelerated degree programs are an important solution to the student debt crisis. By earning a degree for less money and in less time, students incur less debt and start earning a salary faster.”

Donna Fuscaldo
Donna Fuscaldo is a freelance journalist hailing out of Long Island, New York. She has also written for Bankrate.com, Glassdoor.com, SigFig.com, FoxBusiness.com, Business Insider, Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.

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