Opinion: College Could be Shorter


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Cut costs by cutting the length of college.

One of the biggest problems in our nation today is student debt. Over the past 50 years, manufacturing jobs have all but dried up in the United States, so there are not many viable jobs that can be done at 18 with a high school diploma. More and more employers require bachelor’s degrees. This change corresponds with an increase in STEM fields in the United States, and those fields require a college education. 

Cost of College

But four or more years of college puts an incredible burden on the backs of students as they are just beginning their adult lives and have very little ability to pay it back. One potential solution to the problem is to make college cheaper. 

It is very unlikely that colleges and universities could lower tuition. Tuition is needed to cover the cost of teaching, teacher salary, maintenance, and research conducted at the university. There could certainly be some cuts to the budgets to reduce tuition, but these can only provide so much relief. Since we can’t easily get away from going to college and can’t make college cheaper, what if we made it shorter? 

Something has to Give

But where would the cuts in the curriculum be made? I believe they could be taken from the general education classes. At Delta State, general education classes make up around 40-50 hours of a bachelor’s degree. If one takes 15 hours per semester, those hours alone account for 1.5- 2.5 years out of 4. Why not cut these classes and allow students to focus on their major?

Some general education classes are applicable to certain majors. Even if some of these classes were still needed, the students could still graduate years ahead of a contemporary class schedule. We would see college taking two or three years instead of four.

High School Reform

But if we remove general education classes, how will those requirements be filled? Look to high school for that answer. Mississippi high schools require 24 credits to graduate. Some of these could pull double duty. For example, English IV in high school could be replaced with Composition I from college. This change would ensure that students arrive at college ready to write papers and do all the basic writing tasks that an adult should be able to do. 

Other classes, such as public speaking, are direct equivalents. Even still, 5.5 high school credits are for electives. Some or all could be budgeted toward a college requirement. Additionally, schools could add one period per year to allow students to earn even more credits in the same amount of time.

Potential Problems

There could be a few problems with this idea. One is that it would require the high school classes to become accredited for dual credit, which could be hard to do for an entire nation. Colleges tend to have different requirements, which is why it would be hard to make sure that all high schools account for all colleges. Instead, high schools could provide dual credit classes accredited for their state. For example, Mississippi high schools should have their curriculum tailored to Mississippi universities. The nature of the classes would have to be modified for a five-hour week, instead of a three-hour week.

Regardless of these problems, reducing the length of college is a potential solution to the cost of college.