Traction for the Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree

Doug Lederman:

The stagnation and disinclination to experiment that many critics believe is rife in higher education may loom over some gatherings of campus leaders. The College-in-3 event here this week wasn’t among them.

Several dozen college administrators, faculty leaders, accreditors and others gathered at Merrimack College to share progress reports on, and commiserate about, common roadblocks in their efforts to create three-year bachelor’s degrees.

The gathering was organized by the College-in-3 Exchange, which has been working for several years to encourage institutions to design and build academic programs that deliver faster, less expensive, and—ideally—better degree programs for learners. Most of the institutions in the fledgling consortium, striving to redesign their way to a more secure future, would do so by reducing the number of academic credits they require from the typical 120 to as low as 90.

Progress has been slow, despite the missionary zeal of its chief advocates, Bob Zemsky, one of America’s best-known scholars and analysts of higher education, and Lori J. Carrell, chancellor of the University of Minnesota Rochester. By the time of last spring’s gathering at Georgetown University, not a single one of the then-12 pilot programs had been approved by their accreditors and states to begin operating.