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Is paying less tuition for a three-year college degree a good idea?
March 28th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Is paying less tuition for a three-year college degree a good idea?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

A dramatic change is underway at some of the nation's colleges and universities.

In an effort to attract more students and improve the financial bottom line, many institutions are cutting tuition or graduating students faster.

CNN Money reports that some private colleges are cutting tuition by more than 20%. Others are offering three-year degree programs, but that means fewer classes.

And some experts worry these fast-tracked degrees are a bad idea. That they shortchange students on learning critical skills like reading and writing.

Meanwhile it's no secret that the cost of attending college has skyrocketed with both tuition and room and board rising faster than the rate of inflation for years.

The average tuition at four-year private colleges now stands at nearly $29,000 a year. So the savings from finishing in three years instead of four ain't chump change.

It's estimated that total college student loan debt in this country tops $1 trillion. That kind of debt can force people to postpone buying homes. And that could slow the housing recovery.

Meanwhile a lot of these young graduates aren't buying homes because they're moving back in with mom and dad when they can't find jobs.

A recent pew poll shows nearly 30% of young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 are living in their parents' home. That's the highest level since the 1950s. And that number shoots up to 53% for those younger than 25.

Here’s my question to you: Is paying less tuition for a three-year college degree a good idea?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Michael in Alexandria, Virginia:
I graduated in three years by taking summer school and testing out of half a year. It’s a wonderful way to save money, especially if going on to graduate school. In the future, however, the first two years at any school should be publicly funded, with employers hiring people after that and paying for the rest.

C. in Alabama:
I was a double major in college…but even with such a heavy load, a percentage of the classes I took were electives unrelated to my degree. Those electives enriched my educational experience and my life, and I wouldn't trade what I learned for the world. But considering the difficult economic environment, a three-year degree centered solely on the courses pertinent to the degree obtained should be acceptable to employers who require a traditional college degree.

Susan in Denver:
If a student goes to summer school and completes four years of course work in three years, fine. But don't degrade a 4-year bachelor's degree by chopping out 25% of the content. If students want less, they can get two-year associate degrees.

Joe:
It depends on what the degree is in. A focused 3-year degree in an Engineering field is definitely worth it. A degree in Comparative Medieval Literature or Advance Basket Weaving isn't worth it even at half the price. There is a huge disconnect between the degrees we SAY we need, and the degrees our Education System keep cranking out.

Pete:
Jack, Our current 4-year college degrees are a true and honest equivalent to a high school diploma obtained in the 1950s and 60s, with the possible exception of the fact that high school graduates back then could actually spell words found in the English dictionary. If there was to be a conversion to a 3-year college degree, after graduating who would then teach them to dress themselves?

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soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. Rich McKinney, Texas

    It depends on what you expect to take home from the school. I have seen people spend 6 years and a ton of money on a formal education and still end up stupid. An education is a two way street Jack. You get out of it what you put into it and that includes money.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  2. John from Alabama

    Jack: It takes a 128 credits to get a four year degree in the semister system. If a student can get the necessary credits in 3 years good for them, and it will save them the room and board for the 4th year. University and colleges change by the credit hour; therefore, tuition will be paid for the 128 hours. No savings on tuition, but rather a savings on the room and board.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  3. Russ in PA

    Why not? What is the purpose of four-year degrees? And for that matter, why aren't more people demanding that the government get out of subsidizing education, as that is a key reason for colleges running up the tab. Free markets are the only correct answer once again.

    Ron Paul in 2012...

    March 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  4. Bizz, Quarryville Pennsylvania

    I think if you are able to get all the courses you need to graduate in three years it is a great idea. The more people we have with college degrees the stronger our country becomes. We need to do something and this is a good start. One thing for sure we can not count on Congress to help they are too busy playing politics.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  5. Ed from California

    Yes it is. Jack, all public schools should be free of charge (this is why we "pay" taxes). I was shocked at the cost of public colleges. When I went to school in the seventies.....college tuition, books were cheap.....and I went to school in Berkeley. I had a Union job, and work a lot. Now, with less and less people paying taxes, because of no work, or taking a job that pays low wages is hurting our countries bottom line. It's a "trickle down" effect alright....this country is trickling down the drain. While "Rome" burns.....John Boehner, Dave and Chuck Koch.....laughs all the way to the bank! Mr. Boehner, "Where are the jobs"!!!!!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  6. Doug Ericson

    Yes, a three year degree is a good plan. Its not for everyone, but I would guess at least half of the students would be able to do it. Doug, Pepperell, MA.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  7. C. Martin-Wood from Alabama

    I graduated with a 4.0 GPA with a double degree from a great college. I carried two majors and two minors. Even with such a heavy load, a percentage of the classes I took were electives unrelated to my degree. Those electives enriched my educational experience and my life, and I wouldn't trade what I learned for the world. That said, considering the difficult economic environment in which we find ourselves, a three-year degree centered solely on the courses pertinent to the degree obtained should be acceptable to employers who require a traditional college degree.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  8. calaurore9

    A better idea would be four years of education that prepares students for today's jobs. Practical applied courses. Like NYU. Costs too much, but at least it's worth it.

    C in Ma

    March 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  9. Pete in Georgia

    Jack, our current 4 year college degrees are a true and honest equivalent to a high school diploma obtained in the1950's and 60's, with the possible exception of the fact that high school graduates back then could actually spell words found in the english dictionary.
    If there was to be a conversion to a 3 year college degree, after graduating who would then teach them to dress themselves ??

    March 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  10. Larry from Georgetown, Tx

    That depends on the quality of the degree is. A three year degree from a school that doesn't have a good reputation for future jobs wouldn't be a good idea. Cheaper is not always better but if it is a good school then it would be wonderful.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  11. DT - Saint Paul, MN

    No. Just like I think paying teachers less is a bad idea. Education costs money. Are there overages? Of course. So what... Education is so fundamental to our prosperity and economy its silly to ever think cutting education is a good idea.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  12. Gary in San Jose, California

    A three year degree will have perception problems with hiring managers. A smarter approach would be attending a community college for the first two years then transferring to a four year college. You'd save more money and end up with a proper degree this way.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  13. Bill of New Mexico

    It depends on the people who do the hiring.

    Do the people who do the hiring think much of a 3-year degree?

    The people who hire that I know would not. If the people that I know are typical, then a 3-year degree is not a good idea.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  14. Julia, Fayetteville, NC

    I think the day will come when colleges will cut "general education courses" and permit a person to go to college for a specific reason therefore a specific curriculum which could probably be completed in 3 years. If you only hired teachers for job-oriented curriculums, it would probably cut the expense of hiring professors for courses a person really doesn't need to perform a job. My first two years were courses that were fluff. Nice to have, but fluff. My last two years taught me something about what I would be doing for a career – therefore a career-oriented curriculum.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  15. Pat in Michigan

    It depends on the field of study. My wife is an I.T Professional and needed a two yr degree from a comm.college because her 4 yr degree would not get her squat.
    However I don't think a 3 year degree in open heart surgery is such a good idea!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  16. Annie, Atlanta

    Paying less tuition is always a good idea. Education is key to this country's success. Heck, if I were queen of the world, college would be free to everyone. Have you seen the republican candidates disparaging education, and all of them with at least a couple of degrees each? What's that all about? Are people really that stupid?

    March 28, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  17. Steve, Clifton, Virginia

    Less Tuition, Less College equals Less Competence and make the U S Less competitive on the global stage. A three year college for a segment of the workforce would be a great idea to augment technical and trade schools. However, the U S should not relax any educational standards that ultimately will harm the U S standings as a world power and leader.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  18. Noel Sivertson New Mexico

    It depends on a person's financial situation. Education always pays off. A two year associate degree is better than a high school diploma. A three year degree would be better than a two year degree. If you are cash strapped for higher education getting a three year degree and later, when you can afford it, moving up to a four year degree makes sense. It's not much different than getting a bachelor's degree and waiting a while before getting a masters.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  19. Michael Bindner, Alexandria VA

    I graduated in three years by taking summer school and testing out of half a year. Its a wonderful way to save money, especially if going on to graduate school. In the future, however, the first two years at any school should be publicly funded, with employers hiring people after that an paying for the rest.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  20. John Lake Charles, LA

    Kids already spend 5 or 6 years in college to get a 4 year degree that costs 2 times as much as it should with only half the useful content. There is so much more knowledge available now then there was 20, 30, 40 years ago. There should be more time spent in school, not only college but high school and grammer school also. It seems like everybody these days is looking for shortcuts to everything. What ever happened to old fashioned hard work?

    March 28, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  21. Jenna Roseville CA

    Is paying less tuition for a three-year college degree a good idea?

    What's a 3 year college degree? Is it a Bachelor's degree that you obtain in 3 years or a Associates degree? If it is a 3 year bachelor's degree then yes it would be a good idea but if it is an Associates degree then NO.

    Jenna
    Roseville CA

    March 28, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  22. Ralph Spyer

    Every country in Europe has no tuition for college,It;s FREE.That a even better idea.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  23. Gary H. Boyd

    Since the chances of long term financial success in life these days without a college degree or a trade school specialty are pretty lousy, reducing the cost of such education would be worthwhile if America's endangered middle class is to survive.

    Gary in Scottsdale, Arizona

    March 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  24. Mitoosense Ft Lauderdale Florida

    The cost of a 4 year degree is paid in the first year of school. The balance of the tuition is benevolent grants to professors who go to school for a living..

    March 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  25. Nate NC

    Our education system is overrated. People attending college are really just getting the educating of people years ago in High School. I've talked to people who took 150+ hour engineering degrees 40+ years ago that laugh at the 124 hour degrees available today. Less tuition gives room for less quality. The problem is that everything is being cut, thus destroying the standard and quality to be received.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  26. Mr D

    Sounds like a good idea to me. However, there would be less books and beer sold, and that would probably slow the economy down. Le's face it, it's all about money. Are we ready for profs in the unemployment line?

    March 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  27. Dave, Orlando, FL

    If the principle of getting what you pay for holds, it may be a good third option. If it means you get better than what you paid for, it is a really good option. But if these “experts” you cite are correct, I’m not sure that more or fewer years in college would make any difference if you don’t already know how to read or write by the time you get there.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  28. Kim , Dodge City, Ks

    What do they charge in China for college? Whatever it is, it must be working. They are out-smarting us, and controlling the world economy, not to mention those wimps at the State Department. But that's okay, because Rick Santorum says that college is for snobs. I guess China has some of the best educated snobs on the planet.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  29. ken, atlantic city, nj

    Yes. It is time employers stopped requiring a college degree for every white collar job. Making students pay 100 to 200 thousand dollars to take 130 college credits most of which are just a repeat of what you learned in high school is just a big rip off and needs to end. Colleges can also do without multi million dollar basketball and football programs.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  30. Wilhelm von Nord Bach - Las Vegas

    IF the three year degree actually qualifies the student for a good paying career then YES it's WORTH it. I graduated with a technical degree years ago that qualified me for a high paying job with a major airline. it was sure more useful than some "doctor of liberal arts" degree.

    technical schools, esp thru community colleges, are the "unknown education" that usually print money for their graduates.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  31. george c paree

    I went through and pipefitter it took four years and one year more before top rate I worked at u.s.s. they spend $100.000 more to teain me in hed engeering and air lotic traiving then I went to ford motor and recieved $190.000 more training fifty years nof piefitting has taught me know one can keep up without help the process of making steel or xars you have to learn everthing about ever esle trade to be good at what you do.The last years at ford they depended on me to purchuce sprnding bid some on parts up to $190.000 a day the more you learn the more you will be responsible for Thet need four at lease. chuch paree anderson in

    March 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  32. andy Lynn, MA

    Silly question? I sit here giggling at another easy way out. How about this: Let's raise the level of education so that America is once again the best in the world at everything? Why do we allow B1B visa's to help Microsoft cut down labor costs and our congress does not force our industry to train Americans to tech level 5? If we go to three year degrees why not mail order degrees. Why not have the degrees mean something? Thank God I won't live long enough to see the collapse of my beloved America.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  33. Dave - Phx

    Who can afford to send their children to college anymore even for 3 years? Oh that's right, the ones who don't want us to go to college, the 1%.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  34. Jennifer M in Winnipeg

    Jack, if a student didn't learn how to read and write in primary school, middle school and high school ... they should not have even graduated! Is that what happens when there is 'no child left behind'??

    March 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  35. davidmwill

    America needs to start living up to its own mythology. Lowering tution would be a good start. While it is true that America's the greatest country in the world, that's kind of like being called the best looking waitress at Denny's; there's still work to be done.

    Dave in Japan

    March 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  36. Karl in Flint, MI

    Father Guido Sarduci, an SNL character, did a routine once about "The Only 3 Things You'll remember From 4 Years of College. It still applies today. One year of college is repeat of subjects we all had in high school. Cut to the chase and teach the essentials of the profession being studied and get it over with. Hiring managers want job skills. Give the students the job skills.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  37. Michael, from Smiths, Alabama

    As a former university student still living at home with my parents, a three-year college degree would be no better than a two-year or four-year degree. The problem lies with the tuition expenses, book fees, and room and board fees, and the government should step in to regulate tuition fees for students attending university for the first time, or those like me, who have plans to return to university.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  38. Paul in Michigan

    The old idiom aside, that you get what you pay for, yes–expending less for less education is a practical idea. Affordable training is better than none at all. And unless you have your sites on brain surgery or rocket science, a year less in academia won't likely reduce your employment chances.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  39. Jack - Lancaster, Ohio

    Mr. Cafferty:

    Wow, what a question. I think that people are beginning to get the message that "less is more" and that's exactly what our "government" can deliver. As far as slowing the housing market, perhaps so for Americans but foreign investers will buy up what we cannot, maybe even China will buy our homes! And finally, yes it has one psychological benefit for those having saved on a year's less education and the costs...when they get out and cannot find a job,they will feel 20-25 % less screwed than those with a four year degree that cannot find employment either. Those who attend a four year institution like the ivy leaguers probably have a job waiting anyway...in government?

    March 28, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  40. Gigi Oregon

    Yes, for disciplined students it is great. Our grandson did just that. Then spent three months traveling through out Europe, and Mediterranean countries. Which is an education plus...

    March 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  41. Tina from WI

    I think a more focused three year degree is a good idea, considering the financial burden most graduates take home with them. Is it really necessary for a utility engineer to pay for psychology and creative writing? With degrees becoming more required then ever, I don't see anything wrong with cutting the fat.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  42. Ron WPAFB

    Even though the costs of a College Degree have the same looming disaster as Health Care costs to where only the rich kids go to school, there is a bigger problem, Jack. A degree by itself is useless, and if it is in Pollitical Science, which isn't a science, or Arts, English, and my favorite, PE! The thing is unless you are taking a degree program in Engineering, Science, Medicine, and there are many Health Care degrees, or even math, your are wasting money! Yes you are wasting money if your degree program only gets you minimum wage or a little better! You can get $10.00 dollar an hour jobs and better right now without a degree! Just like the Military, some businesses are training and as long as you perform like you want the job, these low paying jobs are out there/out west there! Really, west of the Mississippi! Texas and on up the west coast are jobs waiting!
    Add on the fact that there are at least 80,000 IT jobs available every day in the US, then a Computer Science degree with be worth money, you will get job offers before you graduate!!!!
    Any guidance counselor or College who decent guide you into the Science and math or Heath field is not doing their jobs! Of course after watching just a small portion of the Primary coverage on CNN, seems there is a need for new blood in broadcasting/journalism!

    March 28, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  43. Metalworker

    No. The number of years is directly dependent on the course , degree and availability of core calasses.

    What kind of question is that?
    In most disilenes there is an order that has to be followed. End of story. METALWORKER in IL

    March 28, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  44. Béla, Princeton, NJ

    Sure, 3 years is great but then make the school year last through the winter and summer breaks. This way, you get the same amount of study in the 3 years. Also helps you prepare for real life where you don't get to take 3 months of in the summer and another in the winter.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  45. Don in Saint Louis

    If the 3-year college plan can graduate people with the technical skills required by employers, then I'm all for it. i applaud the university system for trying new ideas. Ultimately it comes down to how hard the students are willing to work to get a degree. Mine came as an 8-year effort which I paid for by myself. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but now I enjoy the benefits. And I'm not so willing to help out those that want a handout. I had to work for it, they can too!

    March 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  46. Rick

    Jack,

    It is simple math. If students can eliminate a quater of their college debt load. Then the 3-yr degree make total sense.

    Rick in Delaware

    March 28, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  47. Matthew - University of North Florida

    I am currently a student with student loans, paying everything myself. I work as a waiter to pay for my apartment so that I don't have to take out the enormous loans that come with being a full time student. I have taken the CLEP tests for 2 classes to try and advance myself. A 3 year degree would be an incredible option that I am now planning on looking into. I sit through general education classes that is a carbon copy of the classes I took in high school, and pay dearly for it financially. I wish my classes were more focused and specific, I know how to read and write, and how to do multiplication, teach me how to think!

    March 28, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  48. Ed, Alberta

    If students didn't take off summers they could finish four year programs in 3 years. A full education that's cheaper and quicker.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  49. Barbara B

    Wakefield, RI
    Yes, My son graduated in three years with honors from George Washington University. He was able to do so because he received a full year of college credit for his high school advanced placement courses. It was our and his plan for him to graduate in three years and that is why he chose GWU over some other very good colleges that did not offer course credit for the AP courses.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  50. Sandstone.

    "This is why they have computers now. Teachers don't need to teach as fully as they may have done in the past. You can even save your work, or send it to other filing department. I can travel the world without even leaving the seat I'm sitting on. Most of the work is done at home and all you need do is open a window onto the sight you want for information pertaining to the course you're taking.".

    March 28, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  51. Suzy-Indiana

    Sure, less for an education is great...is a $50,000 a year education that much better than one at $20,000 a year? My fear is that in our quest to have a greater number of college graduates we diluting the quality of the degree. Now we tell students you need a college degree. At the rate we are going, they'll need a graduate degree to achieve the same place in society.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  52. Brittany

    The university system is a scam and that is being polite. If I as a student know exactly what I want to do when I step on campus, then I should not be forced to take irrelevant classes just so that I can be charged more money. And don't get me started on the price of textbooks that the professors never use!

    March 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  53. Stockton Joe

    It depends on what the degree is in. A focused 3 year degree in an Engineering field is definitely worth it. A degree in Comparative Medieval Literature or Advance Basket Weaving isn't worth it even at half the price. There is a huge disconnect between the degrees we SAY we need, and the degrees our Education System keep cranking out.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  54. Jerry

    Savings are accomplished by students taking the full required load (typically 120 credit hours for an Arts and Sciences degree) in less time–either by going during summers during Christmas breaks or taking more than the "typical" number of credits during a semester. At my school the same tuition applies for 12-19 credit hours; most students take 15. A student taking 19 can get nearly 4 semesters work done in 3, which results in a year less time and all the savings in tuition, room board and fees. Fewer years to complete a degree does NOT necessarily mean fewer courses!

    March 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  55. PiedType

    If a student goes to summer school and completes four years of course work in three years, fine. But don't degrade a 4-year bachelor's degree by chopping out 25% of the content. If students want less, they can get 2-year associate degrees.

    Susan
    Denver

    March 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  56. Brandon - Austin, Texas

    I went to school for 9 years, became a doctor, and now have a large amount of student loan debt. After searching for 2 1/2 years for a job I started a new three-year degree last fall. I have an internship lined up and things are finally looking up for me and my family. So yes, in this case paying less gets you more.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  57. Marc

    Its a great idea. If students paid less for school maybe they would be able to afford to have children like the previous generation. The new generation is a slave to debt with salaries that are half of what their parents make with more education

    March 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  58. Wendy

    It's a great idea, if you are majoring in Literature, History, political science, sociology, etc. You won't get a job with those degrees anyway. Heck, in that case , skip college altogether. You'll save yourself a lot of stress and money. If you are majoring in engineering, nursing, computer science, or doing the requisite work for grad school, four years should be the minimum. You have a job to do, and it requires the appropriate training.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  59. Colleen in St. Louis, MO

    As an adult who is back (full time) in college, and with two children in college and another who will start in just over a year, I would like to see a reduction in tuition costs. I do not believe the problem will be found in a "fast-track" and lower cost college program, but rather with some students who will enroll in this. From personal experience and observation, I see many students who are making the most of their college careers, doing the best they can in each class–at the same time, I see many taking short cuts whenever possible. A fast-track program does not necessarily mean reading, writing, and/or public speaking will fall by the wayside; on the contrary, many classes (at my school, at least) combine reading, writing, or speaking intensive strategies as a major part of the course–to graduate, students must take at least two writing intensive and two speaking intensive classes.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  60. Scott

    Its a good idea. Families saves thousands of dollars. Colleges offer opportunities to students if they work hard. Driven students will be sucessful. Students that do not work hard should not have enrolled in the first place. They waisted time and money that they did not spend in the first place.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  61. Kate

    Removing one year of college in order to save several thousand dollars, really means sending less productive employees into the work force costing employers hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to educate or train these same people in the material they should have learned in that lost year. So, what is more important: a rapid degree with less education and cost, or unprepared college graduates that are not competent, who require their employers to pour money into them in order to get more production? I think that fourth year is worth the money since employers shouldn't have to pay to "complete" an employee's education.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  62. Melissa

    3 years or 4 years really dont matter If you cant get a job.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  63. marybeth, massachusetts

    It depends on the type of degree to be awarded and whether it really is possible to teach students those subjects and skills in 3 years. Too many high school graduates are utterly unprepared for college, which means they don't finish, or they take longer (such as 6 years) to complete their degrees because they have to take remedial courses (the basic English and Math courses they were supposed to have mastered in middle and high school). I think it would be a better use of money and resources to improve K-12 education so high school graduates who want to go to college are college-ready when they graduate.

    There are better ways to save money besides short-changing the Bachelor's degree. Instead of kids going to college across state or out-of-state, they can go to their local community colleges for the first 2 years. Community colleges are much less expensive, have smaller classes, faculty who are committed to teaching. Kids can commute from home, saving on room and board fees. If parents and kids really want to save money, then these same community college graduates can transfer to a LOCAL (within commuting distance) 4 year school, live at home (save on room and board fees), pay in-state tuition rates. Many universities and state colleges have transfer arrangements with the local community colleges–kids who go to community college, who get passing grades (C or better) in their courses will have all of their community college credits/courses accepted by the 4 year school. They start the 4 school as juniors, get to declare their majors, and focus on the courses that should teach them the skills they'll need.

    Another option is to join the military and sign up the G.I. Bill so they get education benefits. If their parents' employers offer employee benefits such as tuition remission or reimbursement for family members, then that helps control costs too.

    The cost of college has gotten so high that student jobs alone aren't enough–as a student you don't make a big salary, and if you're only able to work full time during the summer and during breaks, you don't put in enough time to make enough money to be able to pay your own tuition. Back in the 1970's and even into the 1980's, students could work and pay their own way through school, with smaller loans to help out. Now, it isn't possible.

    I'm not sure if 3 year degrees are the way to go. Kids are so ignorant when they get to college, many need to do make work for what they should have learned in high school and middle school. As it is those who graduate from college are often lacking in communication skills (basic English) and can't write. As a supervisor, having an employee who can't write and/or who lacks reading comprehension skills is a time-sink. English, social science, and humanities courses aren't fluff–they teach reading, writing, communication, and hopefully develop an understanding and empathy for other people, ideas, cultures, religions, etc. Even chemists need to know how to write, and even doctors need to communicate with people besides other doctors (patients, peers, underlings, supervisors, communities). The real culprit, at least for state schools, is that states aren't funding colleges and universities like they used to. Most colleges and universities only get a fraction of the tuition they collect back from the governor, which is why fees are increasing.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  64. Cecelia

    It's about time. I think of classes like Music Appreciation, Pottery, Health, Gym and others that I had to take that had nothing to do with my Business major. All students could probably graduate in 3 years if these GUR (general university requirements) were dropped or significantly reduced. Students have been complanining about these unnecessary classes for years. Now that enrollment is down nationwide, colleges are willing to listen and adjust.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  65. radicaldaisy12

    Well this would have been convenient for me when I was in college but its not for everyone. I took AP classes, and my high school offered opportunities to take college classes in place of electives. Paying $87 per AP test, passing it, and replacing that for a college class makes sense to me...but I still got a quality education out of the deal. Usual courseload of 15 credits/semester (3 credits/class)...you do the math.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  66. Will W - Tucson

    The 3 year degree misses the point,viz: that the BA is not a good idea for many of the students who attend college. The curriculum for degrees in science and engineering are well structured and the 4 or 5 year programs typically lead to good employment for good students. Programs in the social sciences and the humanities are less likely to generate useful degrees for students who are not also seeking graduate degrees. Guess which students and are more likely to move back home after reaching a BA that signals time spent rather than useful skill.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  67. Karen, Idaho

    If colleges and universities would design individualized degrees requiring only those classes that were useful to that particular degree, they could eliminate a year or maybe even two years from the average degree. We have all taken at least a year of "crap" classes that we will never use just to fulfill a requirement. With the cost of college alm ost out of reach to most students, something drastic needs to be done soon.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  68. Gerald - Texas

    Jack,

    Why not? After living with the debit collector for my student loans because I cannot afford to pay all them back due to lack of a decent job, high cost of living expenses, gas, and food prices being so rediculous; I say any education at any pace is great if it will reduce Americans cost to pay for the education. I'm in debit up to my head in student loan debit with no guarantee of finding a decent job after graduation. Salaries are not what they use to be to help sustain living expenses and paying back your loans, and dealing with the student loan creditors is a nightmare! We as students are stressed and depressed instead of educated and ready to use our knowledge to bring about a big idea that will change this country and the world.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  69. Mike in Minneapolis

    Does it matter? China and India are investing trillions in education. The world will have an economic and intellectual leader. Those jobs assembling toys will be coming back. It is just starting to look like they won't include insurance.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  70. Jim, Denver CO

    Jack,
    So we will put in place degree programs like India (3 years)? Yeah that is working out well for our economy. Not!

    March 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  71. Sandra

    If you are able to complete all required coursework for a four year degree in three years, then fine. However, if we are reconstructing college degrees just for the purpose of graduating people, then no. If you want a technical degree, go spent one to two years at a college and learn a skill. There are many wonderful opportunities. We have already dumbed down our educational system enough and the rest of the world is passing us by. Personally, I prefer graduates be able to read, write and do math.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  72. Tom F.

    Yes, I graduated from USC in 3-1/2 years and no one ever asked how long it took me to go through college. Is anyone asking which came first - the huge loan amounts or the university tuition increases?

    March 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  73. Joseph

    When will people get it. College is not about quantity, it is about quality. I personally don't think colleges should make any kind of classes mandatory. Let the student jump in and pay for what they want to learn. After all, it is THEIR money, let them learn and do what ever they feel is best. My opinion or your opinion on the matter should be irreverent, it's their money and their life so let them make of it what they will. We only live once.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  74. Jim

    Jim, Pass Christian, MS
    Look I have previously paid a small fortune for my daughter to finally get her Masters Degree and everything that goes with it and now she answers a phone to help make ends meet. I wish she had become a plumber or an electrician. It will not matter if colleges have a three year program, the cost will probably be the same..

    March 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  75. al from orlando

    After reduced labor costs, this country will be exporting vehicles of many flavors. A 2 yr.vocational degree relative
    to these products would produce a comfortable living.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  76. Nina Fox

    A better question would be, if one paid less for their education, would this allow a decrease in their professional charges? Would the decrease in the cost of education fall on the backs of the taxpayers creating another potential breeding ground for irresponsibility?

    If some of us were able to pay for all the college degrees via working while attending college, what is stopping others from this? I worked 2 jobs all through the 12 years of college and never borrowed a dime.

    Instead of paying less for tuition, why not increase the amount and number of scholarships starting with scholastic standing!

    Nina in Southern California

    March 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  77. Joe

    Let students be able to obtain individualized degrees. Learning things like English, science and math should be things accomplished in high schools. Once you move on to college the only classes you should be taking are ones that are relevant to your field of work you are interested in.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  78. Melissa Memphis,Tn

    Well we all now that cheaper isnt always better...And quicker isnt always right...Look at our educational system...

    March 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  79. Mike in Minneapolis

    Take a look at the breaking news SCOTUS thread comments and you tell us.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm |