WINONA, Minn. (AP) — Some college students are cutting the cost of their education by taking the fast track toward graduation and finishing in three years instead of the traditional four.
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is studying whether some of its four-year bachelor’s degree programs can be compressed to three years. Interim Vice President Scott Olson says they’re not interested in “pushing” more students to finish in three years, but they’d like to have a system in place to help those that do.
Thayeng Her will graduate next month from Winona State University with a double major in public administration and political science. Her, of Roberts, Wis., took advanced placement courses in high school and summer courses at Winona State to finish early. With tuition and fees coming to $13,000 per year, Her said graduating early was a financial decision. She wants to go to law school.
Graduating early requires taking college classes in high school, heavy course loads each semester and summer courses. Fewer than 2 percent of MnSCU students graduate in three years, system officials said.
A number of colleges across the country are considering three-year degrees. While it’s not a new idea, it’s one that more students are beginning to warm up to.
Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, hopes the idea gains traction.
“With rising costs, and new consciousness and new promotion of the concept it might have a chance,” Vedder said. “I would certainly hope we do more experimentation with the three-year degree.”
The University of Minnesota began offering its first three-year degree program this year. It’s for students who plan to go to graduate school immediately afterward.
But finishing in three years isn’t right for every student, said Robert McMaster, the university’s dean of undergraduate education. Some students take the first two years just to decide on a major, McMaster said.
In 1997, the number of University of Minnesota students finishing in three years was less than half a percent of graduating seniors. Ten years later, that number had risen to about 5 percent, or 200 of more than 5,000 graduates.
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