U.S. Senator promotes education equivalent of fuel-efficient car
If cars can be fuel-efficient, why can’t education be time-efficient?
Alexander served as U.S. education secretary in the administration of the first President George Bush and also as president of the University of Tennessee.
Speaking at the Reuters Washington Summit, Alexander suggested that more colleges take a look at allowing at least some students to obtain an undergraduate degree in three years rather than the normal four. “It’s one way to attract students,” he said.
How does he expect colleges to respond? “Skeptically,” Alexander said. “Colleges don’t change easily.”
He said that the idea has been tried and worked on a limited basis — and that the marketplace will likely determine how widespread a three-year degree becomes.
The United States has the best universities in the world, and they have been key to developing competitive advantages that help Americans produce 25 percent of all the world’s wealth, he said.
But Alexander said tuition has soared, leaving students with unprecedented debt.
Writing in the Oct. 17 issue of Newsweek magazine, Alexander noted that Hartwick College, a small liberal arts school in upstate New York, offers three-year degrees to “well prepared-students” — providing them the opportunity to save $43,000, the amount of one-year’s tuition and fees.
He said a number of other “innovative colleges” are making the offer, too.
“The three-year degree could become the higher-education equivalent of the fuel-efficient car,” wrote Alexander. “And that’s both an opportunity and a warning for the best higher-education system in the world.”
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Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Senator Lamar Alexander at Reuters Washington Summit)