Three-year degrees expand options for students

This article has been corrected by from an earlier version

In this economy, we’re pinching pennies. We’re taking classes online at community colleges, taking out more loans, even taking a break from our studies to work. And to top it off, the University is considering raising tuition.

But Interim President Stanley Ikenberry is being realistic. During last week’s Board of Trustees meeting, he suggested an accelerated baccalaureate degree option on all three campuses. Without presenting too many specifics, he suggested creating a task force that would pursue offering a three year degree. We support this idea.

Between arriving at the University with collegiate credit and taking summer classes, the University already provides students with the ability to graduate in three years. But from what we see with Ikenberry’s suggestion, students would have more options, and more support, to move through an academic program on a faster track.

With the pressure to be hired in competitive industries, not to mention the current economic situation, a degree from the University of Illinois in three years would make a big difference. Employers may look very highly on a degree from University of Illinois and might take special notice if it was achieved in three years.

While we understand that this is not possible with every program, we see top officials making the University a quality option for more people. It’s bringing in future students without changing the high standard of our university. What a great incentive for incoming freshman: Here, there will be people helping you make a three-year degree a reality.

Even for those who will look to University summer sessions as an option, the tuition and housing costs could be less expensive than during the school year — and certainly outweigh the price of a whole fourth year of study. Furthermore, Ikenberry said that the University has “faculty who would love to engage with students and have greater opportunities for employment in the summer months.”

The next step, the specifics of this degree opportunity, can reference European universities’ standardized three-year programs, according to Ikenberry. We see a lot of benefits from it and would like to hear what it would take. We think many students would be on board for a middle ground between a four-year college and a community college experience.

Whether three years or more, the University is more than a stepping stone for the rest of our lives. And we look forward to seeing this proposal become a reality.