It’s about time; colleges are starting to realize their attendance rates will drop if they keep sending their students into the world with huge amounts of debt. Now that they are acknowledging this, what’s their plan of action? An article I read from USAToday.com says that colleges are starting to introduce the three year bachelor degree program to save on loans. On the surface this sounds like a logical idea. If students spend a shorter amount of time in college it should save them money. I personally think this is misguided.
Does a three year bachelor degree require the same amount of classes as a four year degree? I’m assuming the answer is yes otherwise everyone would want a three year degree. If that’s the case then they’re basically just giving their students a busier work load (please follow my logic):
1-Instead of 4 classes a semester they will take 5 or 6 (which isn’t anything new for devoted students).
2-Now we need to look at tuition. Every college has a ton of fees, but the most expensive fee is the cost of classes. If students still have to take the same amount of classes they really won’t be saving that much money.
3-Lastly we need to consider why people take out student loans. Generally it’s because they don’t have money for college. In order to save up money many students work and go to school. If their workload increases they will no longer have time to work. That in turn will lead to needing more loans. What this all comes down to is that we will have really busy students that may end up taking out even more student loans because they don’t have time to work. Not to mention the students being tired and stressed out all the time which could cost more money as lack of sleep causes poor financial decisions (nights out, fast food, etc.).
I know we all want a way for students to be able to go to college and not acquire a mountain of debt. That would be great, but the debt isn’t the problem. The lack of “good” jobs for college graduates is. If most graduates could find a decent job, paying down their student loans wouldn’t be as big of a deal. Schools need to address this issue by better preparing their students for what comes next. College shouldn’t be about grades, but about what their students actually learn. Maybe they received an A on their test, but can they actually apply it in real life a month from now? If we expect the companies to completely train all their employees why would they pay more to hire a college graduate? I’ve always been told that a college degree mostly shows that the graduate can actually stick with something and follow it through, and that they aren’t afraid of working hard. If that’s true then I want to know why it costs students so much to prove that to an employer! Isn’t that what probation periods are for? By focusing on student loans colleges aren’t actually fixing the main problem.
As a side note, if we want our students to take out less loans we need to do a better job explaining to them the responsibility of having them. Right now we tell our kids that student loans are OK as long as they finish school, but I can’t help but feel that that attitude is wrong. We should explain them in a way that shows that they are just like any other kind of debt. I think that this should be done in the beginning of high school. If it’s done freshman year they will have time to save money for college if they decided they don’t want to use student loans. I know that most high school students won’t take it seriously, but the sooner they are confronted with the issue the longer it will have to sink in as being important. When I started to take out loans it never seemed like I would actually have to pay them back. I mean I knew I would have to, but it seemed like so far away that it didn’t matter. I know an early introduction, combined with the attitude that student loans weren’t a good thing, would have helped me out a lot.
As college becomes an expectation for more and more people, student loans will continue to rise. Some colleges are taking action to try and “lower” costs by offering a three year bachelor degree. I personally think this is going to be as helpful as a jacket in 100 degree heat. I’m curious to know how all of you feel about this issue. Is a three year degree a good thing, or is it a tool colleges want to use to make themselves look better? Are we all ignoring the real issues (which are the job market and college curriculum)?