Posted on May 2, 2009
There is a lot of discussion in Washington these days regarding three-year undergraduate programs. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is the latest voice calling for universities to explore such programs. A number of institutions offer three-year options, but most of them simply squeeze the tradtional 120 credit or 40 undergraduate courses into 36 months by using summers or simply requiring students to take as many as 18 credits per term.
SNHU has probably the most genuinely successful three-year undergraduate program in the country. Led by Professor Marty Bradley thirteen years ago, a team of SNHU faculty re-engineered the undergraduate Business Administration program on the basis of competency instead of seat time. Last night we celebrated a ten-year reunion of Three-Year Program graduating classes and I was struck by the accomplishments of these alumni. The last three Alumni of the Year recipients were Three-Year Program graduates. The three-year program attracts high energy, focused students and while they are with us they not only manage demanding academic schedules, they tend to play a wide variety of leadership roles on campus. They tend to stay involved with the university after they leave.
Our media people are working to get the story of the three-year program out there now that the general topic has currency. I am going to Washington next week and among other things will seek to raise the profile of the program with policy makers. Would it be impossible to think about a three-year competency-based option for every major in the university? We might be reaching a point when the cost of education is reaching its limit, such an option would essentially provide a 25% discount on the cost of a four-year degree. It’s tempting to think about the idea.