“College in 3” project teams up with 13 institutions to explore three-year degree options

November 17, 2021

College is expensive, and the longer you are in college, the more you end up spending.

For years, Penn GSE’s Bob Zemsky has been mulling an idea: what if college could be completed in three years, instead of the traditional four?

It’s an idea he brought up a few times in the past year, to a more positive reception than he was expecting. “The amazing thing about this is it took off almost immediately. Nobody said, ‘Oh, Bob, that’s an old idea, let it go.’ Nobody said that to me at all,” he told Inside Higher Education.

The “College in 3” project grew from this idea. Zemsky, who serves as chair of The Learning Alliance, a broad coalition of experts assisting institutions of higher learning strike the balance between market success and public mission, is leading the project alongside Lori Carrell, the chancellor of the University of Minnesota at Rochester.

Typically a student who wants to graduate in three years has to complete the same amount of coursework. However, the compressed timeline often means sacrificing social time, athletics, and extracurriculars. Zemsky and Carrell are instead exploring what a three-year program that doesn’t have to make those tradeoffs might look like.

In partnership with 13 pilot institutions, they are considering different possibilities for three-year programs. The partners have committed to exploring the idea but are not required to institute a three-year program. Most are in early stages of planning and face barriers to actual implementation, such as accreditation requirements. Zemsky and Carrell hope that by bringing institutions together, they can develop strategies for tackling some of these barriers.

For more, visit Inside Higher Education.

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