Colleges generally count on at least four years’ worth of tuition per student when tending to the bottom line. Wesleyan University is now separating itself from the pack by encouraging students to fulfill graduation requirements in three years. Wesleyan is not the only college to allow this, but it is given its prestige and active support for the option, the decision may inspire others to do the same. As the Boston Globe reports, president Michael S. Roth thinks students who already have post-college plans will be particularly motivated to accelerate the undergrad experience:
Roth doesn’t expect the three-year track to ever become hugely popular, but wants it to be considered a normal option, one that involves sacrifices but also the opportunity to leap more quickly into graduate school or other exciting pursuits.He recalled a previous Wesleyan president telling students, “If you look back at your years at Wesleyan and say those were the best four years of your life, we failed you.”“I feel the same way,” Roth said in an interview. “You shouldn’t stay here because this is your time to screw around and have a great time and then it’s going to be bad. These should be the years that launch you into the world in a better way.”
Wesleyan students who take this option would be able to shave 20 percent off their total tuition, considerable savings at a school that costs over $60 thousand per year.This is an excellent idea, but it would be good to see schools offer even greater flexibility by moving away from the credit-hour system altogether. Students should be judged based on what they can demonstrate that they’ve learned rather than how many classes they’ve taken. Extremely gifted students may learn in two years what takes others four. As long as each graduate can demonstrate mastery of the material, there’s no reason to mandate that everyone learn at the same pace or follow the same curriculum. That change may still be a long way off, however, and this is, at the very least, a good first step.