Nowadays, the continually increasing tuition rates coupled with prolonged economic downturn signal the need for change in higher education. As college degrees become more essential for employment, maximizing cost efficiency is key.
According to “In praise of the three-year degree,” an opinion story by Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, published in the Oct. 26 edition of Newsweek, some U.S. colleges and universities are experimenting with three-year degrees in response to these economic hardships. However, in terms of a complete college experience, especially at Linfield, the cost outweighs the benefit of a faster education turnaround.
True, the numbers surrounding this change are enticing, especially considering the shadow of student loan repayments that follows many students after graduation.
Alexander cites a statistic that shows that consolidating an undergraduate degree into six semesters reduces college costs by 25 percent.
Applied to Linfield’s current $14,380-a-semester rate — excluding room, board, etc. — the savings would be substantial.
These numbers, however, seem different when considered in context.
College is not just an academic experience. Skimming a year off a student’s academic calendar means, as Alexander points out, less of a chance to become involved in extracurricular activities, less time to participate in sports and less time to mature as a person.
It’s obvious that a lot of personal growth, academic and otherwise, occurs between the ages of 18 and 21. If the goal of college education is to produce well-rounded individuals who are ready to live successful and responsible adult lives, the difference of a year is a significant one.
Here at Linfield, we are practically forced to become involved in activities outside of the classroom. The college’s mission statement expresses a goal of creating global citizens. Much of the learning entailed must occur outside of the textbook: Students need time before they can be expected to operate in the real world.
No matter how thick the Linfield bubble is, its four-year plan is the most feasible option for reaching this benchmark.
Even if Linfield decided to make the change to three-year degrees, the transition would be a difficult one.
A three-year program presents some concerns in terms of academic preparedness. Students would be hard-pressed to squeeze in major and minor requirements along with the Linfield Curriculum into three years, even with Advanced Placement credits.
Of course, the transition wouldn’t be immediate. Other countries’ universities operate almost entirely on this three-year system with positive results, but the United States is not like other countries, and Linfield is a liberal arts institution.
With a three-year degree, there is no room to explore.
This is not to say that American colleges and universities, and even Linfield, shouldn’t make an effort to adapt to a changing world.
As Alexander writes, “Campus schedules haven’t changed since before the American Revolution, when more people were farmers and put their books away to work during the summer.”
It’s obvious that something needs to change, but for now, the three-year degree solution isn’t for Linfield.
-The Review Editorial Board