The Quick College Myth

Can we just stop with this three-year college “solution” already? According to a piece by Gail Rosenblum in Minnesota’s Star Tribune, plans to try and get all students through college rapidly just fail to account for how students actually learn.

As she explains:

Just 2.9 percent of students who started at the University of Minnesota in 2002, for example, graduated after three years. Of those who started in 2007… 4.8 percent finished three years later.

The fact is, we’re raising a different generation of kids. They’re taking longer to graduate, find jobs and marry, if they marry at all. Rather than throw up our hands, I say it’s time to get comfortable with the idea of encouraging them to take their time.

Nearly half of college students are attending community colleges, too. Because community college credits often don’t transfer, students who start there often have trouble completing college in four years, never mind three.

Furthermore, given the latest focus on addressing competition from abroad, we should be encouraging students to have international experiences in college. That’s what the junior year is for. Three-year college would take that away.

If we’re really interested in removing unnecessary aspects of undergraduate learning from the college experience, that would be one thing. But no one can seem to identify what’s truly wasteful about the way college currently works.

Three-year college would seem to remove only a lot of what’s valuable from higher education. This isn’t a reform tactic that’s going to work; let’s find something more promising.

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