UMass will offer 3-year degree plan: Amherst school, following national trend, cites costs (excerpts)
Seeking to trim the cost of a college degree at a time when many families are struggling with tuition, the University of Massachusetts Amherst this fall plans to introduce a program to make it easier for students to graduate in three years.
By introducing a formal three-year degree option, UMass joins dozens of other schools around the country that have decided that students’ desire to save money in some cases trumps officials’ traditional concerns that they have a full four years to explore and grow intellectually and socially.
“As the state backs out of support for public higher education, and families take on a bigger chunk of the burden, we need to try to mitigate that,’’ said James Staros, UMass Amherst provost. “We thought, ‘What can we do to shorten the time and cost for a UMass education, without diluting the degree?’ ’’
Although many colleges allow some students to graduate early, UMass will be the first major university in Massachusetts to offer a formal program, which will include advisers who can help students plan a path to a three-year degree...At UMass Amherst, this year’s freshmen majoring in economics, music, and sociology will be able to join the three-year degree track; eventually, students in one-third of the university’s 88 majors will be eligible.
...(T)his fall, Staros said, students entering with enough Advanced Placement credits will find it easier to graduate in three years, with the help of advisers trained to steer them through a sequence of courses that may include online offerings and summer classes.
About 10 to 25 percent of the university’s 4,500 freshmen enter college with enough Advanced Placement credits to qualify for three-year degrees, Staros said. He said he expects that the number of students who seek to graduate in three years will grow as a result of the new formal option.
“It’s a very focused program,’’ he said. “It’s not for students who go to college and take a year to figure out what they want to do.’’
Because of the heavier course load required to graduate in three years, the expedited degree track would not be a good option for students who want to study abroad, double-major, or conduct independent research, he said. Some of those students could be steered toward a new five-year program, during which they could obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degree....This fall, more than 50 schools in the United States will have the three-year option, or have plans to introduce it...
Many schools offering three-year options are small, private colleges trying to compete with for-profit schools for students... Others are public universities that have been mandated by state legislatures to provide the option; the University of Rhode Island has done that, and the Ohio and Tennessee legislatures are considering it...