With the country well into an economic recession, college is becoming less and less affordable.
In an effort to make college more financially accessible during the recession, Hartwick College in New York has implemented a three-year degree programs to cut costs and save time for students.
The private, liberal arts school in Oneonta, N.Y., southwest of Albany, designed a degree program that allows accepted students to graduate in just three years and still have their summers free for jobs or internships, said Hartwick College President Margaret Drugovich.
Drugovich added students will still have the opportunity to participate in athletics, student government, research projects and other student organizations if they so desire.
The program is projected to save Hartwick students around $42,000 total, about the combined cost of tuition and room and board for one academic year, Drugovich said.
“Obviously not every student pays full tuition,” Drugovich said. “We offer financial aid and scholarship but we’re finding in this economy that even with financial aid many students are challenged to find an affordable, high quality liberal arts education.”
Students in the three-year degree program take 18 credits in the fall, 4 credits over Hatwick’s January term — which is a common among private, liberal arts colleges — and 18 credits again in the spring.
“This program is really for students who are well-prepared, motivated to be successful and who are serious about their education because those are the students that are who are going to be able to me most successful,” Drugovich said. “It’s for students who are scholars and want to get their value out of their tuition money.”
Despite such programs being instated at relatively small colleges, larger universities are also starting to consider them as well.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has considered instituting similar programs, said Vice President Chuck Pruitt.
“About two months ago (UW System) President Reilly announced that three-year degrees were one of the things we were going to aggressively be looking at and exploring as part of a series of economic measures to benefit students,” Pruitt said.
Three-year degrees are also appealing to universities because they save money for not only students but also for the universities themselves because the university will use fewer resources on the students involved in the program, Pruitt said.
“If there is a way students can have a high quality program and move quickly through the program, then we certainly want to make that available,” said UW spokesperson John Lucas. “It would remove the bottleneck that occurs in a big school.”
Additionally, graduating college a year early gives students an advantage in an already increasingly difficult and competitive job market, as Drugovich said.