A recent article in the Boston Globe describes the new way that college students are mitigating their outrageous tuition costs: graduating in three years. At Wesleyan University, President Michael S. Roth is an outspoken advocate for the three-year track, having completed it himself at Wesleyan in 1978. Other schools have adopted this option for students, including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It is even possible here at Boston College, but it currently remains an option that only a small slice of students pursue.
The most obvious and beneficial reason that students choose to graduate in three years is the money saved. Regardless of whether a student is already on financial aid or not, cutting out a full year of tuition makes a huge difference. As the sticker price of elite universities rises above $60,000, this option has become more appealing. Saving an entire year of tuition can be the difference between whether a student can afford to attend that university or not, and can allow students who otherwise would not be able to pay to receive an elite education. Another pro of graduating in three years, according to President Roth, is that students are able to enter the job market and the real world more quickly. Instead of viewing college as “the best four years of your life,” he says college should be viewed as the means that allow you to succeed where it really counts. Being one year ahead of the competition in the job market can also set students apart and, in the eyes of an employer, signify characteristics of determination, intelligence and a strong work ethic.
In order to successfully graduate in three years, students must make important sacrifices as well. Squeezing four years of a college workload into three is not for the faint-hearted, and students will either have to overload each semester or invest in summer classes. Here at BC, earning 24 advanced placement units from AP tests in high school will make a student eligible for the three-year track. However, usually only core classes, not major requirements, can be avoided. Three years of college limits the time that students can spend on extracurriculars, sports and friendships. In addition, it is nearly impossible to study abroad and graduate in three years. This kind of stress in addition to missing out on experiences, in some people’s opinions, limits the college experience and abbreviates the time that students have to discover themselves intellectually and emotionally.
Caroline Repetti, A&S ‘17, said, “I think there’s a lot of pressure to see if you can do that [graduate in three years] now because of how expensive college is and how touchy of a topic it is between kids and their parents. If you’re under a lot of financial pressure because FAFSA isn’t cutting it and you can somehow manage the overload of classes, go for it, but from a student health/personal growth perspective, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
The cases for both sides are strong, and eventually the decision of whether or not to graduate early has to be made on a subjective basis. Some students may be able to thrive on a three-year education track while others may not. Only time will tell if this option becomes more widely adopted as the cost of college continues to increase.