May 24, 2009

The three-year degree already exists

Yesterday's Washington Post article on the three-year degree argument skimmed over what most such proposals ignore: there already is a three-year degree, and I don't mean the small number of three-year degree options that have largely failed to attract students. I mean the way that students currently speed up their college education: AP classes and dual enrollment in community-college courses while in high school. The Post story briefly mentioned George Washington University student Justin Guiffre, who might graduate a year early with AP credit. A college friend of mine did the same in the 1980s. I have known some students at USF who have also used AP class credit to finish general-education requirements early, which makes graduating a semester early almost automatic, and a year early quite possible.

Maybe I am naive or out of touch, but I don't recall this being a focus of any discussion vis-a-vis the three-year degree. Instead of blathering on about "better marketing" (which always rescues flops regardless of the merits of an idea), maybe American Council of Education President Molly Corbett Broad should be asking where students use AP credits and where they don't, and why. And maybe we should be asking whether a three-year-degree option would address the reasons for swirling or academic probation or lack of academic support from the institution, or any of the many reasons why degree completion is lower than many of us would like. Until then, the three-year-degree proposal is facile, not substantive. 

No-shoe-leather-used alert: did anyone else notice that the only students Valerie Strauss quoted were from George Washington University, less than two miles from the Washington Post headquarters, and Howard University, which is within three miles. They're both private, nationally-known colleges and not the typical college or university. Maybe she should have talked with University of District Columbia or University of Maryland students to see what the public-university student perspective is.

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Posted in Higher education on May 24, 2009 8:40 AM |