Showing posts with label six-year graduation rates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label six-year graduation rates. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Three-Year College Degrees: Is That a Good Idea?

 I recently stopped off at my local natural food store to pick up a box of my favorite organic breakfast cereal. The stuff tastes like maple-flavored cardboard, which I prefer to strawberry-flavored cardboard.

This cereal is expensive, and when I picked up the box, I noticed it seemed too light--like it was only half full. I realized then that the cereal manufacturer was hiding its rising costs by giving me less for my money instead of charging me more.

Something like that is happening in higher education. According to Inside Higher Ed, "Higher education thought leaders" and several colleges are developing three-year college degree programs. 

Why? Because a college education has gotten intolerably expensive, and a three-year program would theoretically reduce the cost of a college education by 25 percent.

Several models would slash the total number of credit hours from 120 to 90. Sort of like my breakfast cereal. Colleges keep their costs down by offering students fewer courses.

Is this a good idea?

Maybe. Most people agree that many students are taking required courses that don't interest them in the least. Why should an engineering student have to take a course in biology?

But the "thought leaders" are forgetting one critically important fact. Most students don't complete their college degrees in four years. In fact, only a little more than half the students at public universities  (57.6 percent) get their degrees in six years!

Private colleges have a slightly higher graduation rate.  Still, only about two-thirds of private-school students graduate within six years.

That tells me that most college students are in no hurry to complete their degrees and enter the world of work.

Some experts think that three-year college programs have significant drawbacks. A Connecticut college discontinued its three-year program because it "did not allow for the psychosocial and academic development of 18- to 22-year olds" that would occur if students were on campus for four years.

In an article published ten years ago, the Washington Post reported that three-year college programs are not catching on. Some students dropped out of the three-year option, the paper said, because they wanted more time to participate in student activities.

I applaud any effort to cut the cost of going to college. And maybe some of those required classes should be dropped. When I was a student (in the previous century), I took required courses in history, geography, biology, and chemistry.

Except for my American history course, which I loved, the information I got from my required classes went in one ear and out the other. I remember selling my chemistry text within an hour after finishing my final exam. (I got a C.)

Let's keep working on ideas to cut the cost of going to college. We've simply got to get tuition prices down and keep students from taking out student loans they can't repay.  Three-year college programs may be part of the answer.

But let's not cut history courses from the college curriculum. I took an American history class when I was a college freshman, and I still remember why Washington crossed the Delaware.


Why did Washington cross the Delaware, and who cares anymore?



Monday, November 2, 2020

Student-housing and meal plans at American universities: Another reason college students are taking out large student loans

College students take out more and more student loans to pay their tuition bills with each passing year because tuition has risen at twice the inflation rate for more than two decades. But tuition is only part of the cost of going to college.  

When you add in books, housing, and food, not to mention incidental costs like a cell phone, the cost of going to college for one year can be well over $30,000--even at a public university.

Let's look at Louisiana State University, located just down the street from me. LSU requires its first-year students to live on campus unless they qualify for an exemption. This means that most of the 6,400 students who enroll for the first time will live in a dorm.  First-year students must also purchase a meal plan.

According to LSU's own calculation, the typical first-year student needs to come up with 24 grand just to pay tuition, room, and board.  How many Louisiana families have $24,000 lying around to pay for their child's first year at college?

And students have other costs besides the money that goes directly to the university. LSU estimates the total annual cost for an in-state student is $33,590! How many Louisiana families have that kind of money sitting in the bank?

Of course, many families figure out ways to spend less than $30,000 a year for their children to attend college. Students with good high-school academic records and good ACT scores can qualify for a TOPS scholarship that covers most college-tuition costs in Louisiana. 

But even a first-year student who gets a "free ride" and pays no tuition must still come up with $12 thousand to pay for room and board.  And in most instances, at least part of that money will be borrowed.

Now stretch these costs over four, five, or six years. A typical student who graduates from LSU in four years will have spent $130,000 to finance their studies. But only about two-thirds of LSU students graduate in six years! A student who pays in-state tuition and spends six years living in an LSU dorm will rack up costs totally almost $200,000.

Obviously, that's far too much. And offering students free tuition at a public university (as Senator Bernie Sanders proposed) doesn't provide a total solution.

Of course, tuition must come down, but students need to spend less time hanging out on college campuses.  Spending six years to find oneself, financed with student loans, is a disastrous way to become an adult. And this is particularly true for students who spend six years in college to get a degree in art history, sociology, or gender studies.

How would you like to spend six years here?