Today’s Boston Globe describes a new program at UMass Amherst that allows students to graduate from particular majors in three years instead of four (or more). Eventually, this program is intended to expand to 1/3 of the university’s majors, but for now there are only three options: economics, music, and sociology. The key to this appears to be a lot of AP credits, “with the help of advisers trained to steer them through a sequence of courses that may include online offerings and summer classes.” Of course, “Because of the heavier course load required to graduate in three years, the expedited degree track would not be a good option for students who want to study abroad, double-major, or conduct independent research.”
As an entering freshman I was only dimly aware of what sociology was, so I had no idea that I would decide over the next four years to dedicate my life to it. Students like me, who come to college hoping to fall in love with a major, seem unlikely to benefit from programs like these. Some students may also end up choosing majors based on their length rather than true interest (this will undoubtedly lead to programs that cannot be completed in three years perpetuating the idea that longer is better…). The real losers, though, appear to be students who went to school in districts without many AP options (my own high school had AP English and nothing else) who will have to take on more debt to complete the same degrees as their AP-rich classmates, potentially heightening social class differences.
Via Inside Higher Ed