Three-Year College the Norm in Europe

Three-Year College the Norm in Europe

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(Image: File)
(Image: File)

This opinion piece was written by Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute; and Paul Weinstein Jr., the director of the Public Management Program at John Hopkins University and a PPI Senior Fellow. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.


In rolling out an ambitious higher education plan this month, Hillary Clinton put a genuine national dilemma — America’s ballooning student debt crisis — at the center of the 2016 debate. What a refreshing contrast to her Republican opponents.

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Clinton’s New College Compact is a big, multi-faceted plan to take the ‘debt monkey’ off the backs of millennials who attend public universities. But one thing it is not is cheap–the price tag is $350 billion. And it does not do enough to rein in college tuition costs, much less roll them back.

So let us offer a friendly amendment that would do just that and thereby complement Clinton’s otherwise creative proposal. Our suggestion? The three-year college degree.

Three-year colleges are the norm in many European countries, and a few enterprising universities here have begun to follow suit. We propose requiring any U.S. college or university with students who receive any type of federal student aid to offer the option of earning a bachelor’s degree in three years.

While some schools might be tempted to squeeze a four-year degree into three years, that approach would be unwise, given that the majority of today’s college students need six years to complete a bachelor’s.

A better approach would be for schools and their accreditors to rethink their curriculum. For example, reducing the number of electives, cutting back on core requirements, or shifting to shorter semesters are all options that schools could use to move to a three-year bachelor’s and improve the educational experience.

For students and their families, finishing college in three, rather than four years, would cut the cost of tuition and fees by 25%.

Read more at CNN.