For Years in Ohio

The state of Ohio is getting excited about three-year bachelor’s degrees. The idea is that if the public universities in the Buckeye State can offer degrees in only three years, college students, and the state, won’t have to pay for four.

According to a piece by Larry Abramson at NPR:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has ordered state universities to investigate ways for students to get a bachelor’s degree in three years. The hope is that three-year degrees will help save students money and get them into the job market more quickly.

Kasich’s proposal is one of a number of measures he is pushing to cut the cost of higher education, including a limit on tuition increases. The Republican governor also says faculty members should spend more of their time teaching. Matt Mayer of the Buckeye Institute, a free-market think tank, says a three-year degree would help make higher education more efficient.

Ah, efficient education. Students can get their degrees quickly, cheaply, and they’ll be just as good. Budget solution, here we go.

Not really. As Education Sector’s Kevin Carey pointed out in the Chronicle of Higher Education back in 2009, there are only two ways to do three-year degrees, and neither of them are really are that great.

The first way to do it is to make students earn more credits in shorter periods of time. This means summer school and taking more credits each semester. At most schools this is already a possibility but it’s unpopular because it means spending less time at college and it doesn’t save students much money (what with all that summer school).

The other way to do three-year bachelor’s degrees is to simply require fewer credits to earn a bachelor’s degree. Well okay, but that means students don’t take as many classes. That actually would cost less money, but it wouldn’t really be “saving” money, since students would be getting less education. And sooner or later employers and graduate schools will figure that out.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer