The Rise of the 3-Year Degree – Could This Be the End of the 4-Year Bachelor’s Degree?

Posted By Terri Williams on March 15, 2016 at 2:06 pm
The Rise of the 3-Year Degree – Could This Be the End of the 4-Year Bachelor’s Degree?

Student loan debt is spiraling out of control, and nationwide, the cost of a college degree continues to rise. As GoodCall recently reported, tuition and fees at public four-year universities and private non-profit universities rise every year by an average of 3.4% and 3.6% respectively; fees and in-district tuition at public two-year colleges increase annually by an average of 3.0%.

Some would-be collegians wonder if they can afford to pursue their higher-ed dreams. In addition to the high cost of going to college, there are other considerations such as time commitments. But suppose you could obtain a bachelor’s degree in a shorter period of time, saving time and money?

One possible solution is a 3-year degree program. While this concept isn’t spreading like wildfire, several schools have implemented it.  Below are just a few schools that now offer a three-year degree program:

St. John’s University The University of Iowa
Ohio State University Indiana Tech
American University University of North Carolina-Greensboro
University of Akron Hartwick College
Mount St. Mary’s Grace College
Wentworth Institute of Technology Mississippi State University
The Univ. of Massachusetts-Amherst Kent State University
Purdue University Thomas More College
Wesleyan University University of Cincinnati
Bowling Green State University Ashland University
Southern New Hampshire University Lesley University


Ohio’s public colleges and universities all offer 3-year degree options

In fact, Ohio has a statewide initiative for its 13 public colleges and universities to offer bachelor degree programs that can be completed in three years. GoodCall caught up with Jeff Robinson, Director of Communications for the Ohio Department of Higher Education, to find out more about three-year degree programs.

Robinson says affordability is a major concern for college students and their families. “We are looking closely at what can be done to make higher education more affordable for students attending our public colleges and universities – and some of those things, including the three-year degree programs, fall under what is called our low-cost pathways.”

Robinson says the State also has two other programs: 2+2 pathways involves taking two years at a community college and then transferring those credits to finish a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university. College Credit Plus lets students accrue both high school and college credit simultaneously – they take actual college classes while still in high school. “The third program is the three-year degree option, which involves coming into college with some credit earned in high school, whether through Advanced Placement courses, College Credit Plus, Early College High School, etc.”

And for students who know what they want to study, and have taken the time to plan, Robinson says the three-year degree option can be a way to save money on a college education.

“The benefits of a three-year degree include spending less on tuition and getting a degree in less time, which allows you to get an earlier start on your career or on your continued education.” Robinson says it also allows students to pursue a dual major, take time for an internship, or study abroad.

In fact, Robinson says he can’t think of any disadvantages since the students who decide to choose this path do so because they think it’s the best fit for them. But he says, “The 3-year degree is only an option for students who are bringing college credit earned in high school with them when they first enroll.” For students who have not planned accordingly, Robinson says the three-year degree will probably not be an option.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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