The Ripple Effects of Three-Year Degrees

Over at The Chronicle, Gene C. Fant Jr. writes about some of the effects on faculty hiring if and when the movement toward three-year degree programs—which was largely ignited by Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) recent Newsweek column, and which is picking up steam—leads to widespread adoption of that model.

Two of them are of particular note for those concerned with reducing inequality in higher education:

-Increased need for remediation services: As traditional first-year courses are shifted off campus, colleges will be forced to expand remediation services for math, writing, and other basic areas. The unevenness of student preparation in those skill areas will place great pressure on institutions to remediate weaknesses. The area of academic support services will enjoy a boom in such an environment.

-Increased attention to advising/mentorship: Because of the intricacies of planning ahead for a faster graduation, advising will become more specialized. If graduation is linked with even a remote promise of timeliness from the institution, advisors will shoulder very important responsibilities in moving students along in efficient ways. Advising will also take on a very important mentorship role, with increased attention to career counseling.

If this is done right, it could make things cheaper and more streamlined for everyone. If it is done wrong, it could widen many of the gaps that already hinder our higher ed system.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.