The three-year degree is the common model at the University of Cambridge and Oxford University in England, and some U.S. schools have begun experimenting with the idea. To cram four years of study into three, some will require summer work, others will shave course lengths and some might cut the number of credit hours required.
“It will not be easy to produce a low-cost, high-quality three-year curriculum for a college degree, but now is the time to try,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former education secretary and a past president of the University of Tennessee, told a group of educators this year. “Today’s economic crisis and tight budgets are the best time to innovate and change.”
But critics said they fear that an undergraduate’s academic and social experience would be compromised by shortening it to three years. College would tilt more toward job training and away from the broad-based education many U.S. schools have offered.