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Ball State Says "Degree in 3" Is Not A Significant Money-Saver

In an effort to make college more affordable and get students into the job market faster, Governor John Kasich wants state institutions to accelerate degree program so students can graduate in three years. WOSU reports college administrators and students are weighing possible changes. Ohio public colleges and universities could soon be required to offer three-year bachelor degrees. In his two-year budget, Governor John Kasich called for 10 percent of undergraduate degrees be fast-tracked by next year, and 60 percent of them by 2014. Kasich's policy advisor Wayne Strubel spoke at the Governor's budget hearing in March. "We believe that for talented students, especially talented students that can take AP classes who can test out of other courses, we would like to see the universities develop, and we will work with them to do this, a three-year program. So students can complete a university career in three years, thus saving their parents a lot of money," Strubel said. For parents who have a child getting ready to go off to school this may sound like a great idea. But one Mid-West university, that offers three-year degrees, said do not expect a big savings. Ball State University began offering its "Degree in 3" program six years ago. University Vice President Tom Taylor said the rigorous, accelerated degree programs are suited for very focused students who know exactly which career path they want to take. He says nursing has been a successful three-year degree program. But the costs saving are minimal. "I think that's one of those misconceptions, people hear degree in three and think oh I'm going to save a year of tuition. And it's not that you save a year of tuition, again, you're accelerating the pace at which you're putting your requirements," Taylor said. Taylor said the average savings for a three-year degree at Ball State is about $525 compared to a four-year degree student. The savings, he said, comes from avoiding tuition hikes. "The majority of us are in a situation where tuition increases each year and by taking course in the summer and by moving up that time frame you're missing out on that last year of tuition increase," Taylor said. One concern about the governor's proposal is students will miss out on a well-rounded education. Ball State does not cut back on credit hours in its fast-tracked program. A Cleveland-area private college has been considering a three-year bachelor degree program for a couple of years. But unlike Ball State, Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea wants to reduce the number of credit hours required for its three-year degree. Baldwin-Wallace's Associate Vice President Jim McCargar says only electives be cut out. He said their college's telescoped degree would save students a substantial amount of money. "With a six semester degree program that we're proposing, students would cut the cost of tuition by 25 percent," McCargar said. That's more than $26,000 in tuition. Ohio State University began exploring the proposed requirement this week. OSU President Gordon Gee is split over the governor's plan. During an appearance on All Sides with Ann Fisher Gee said much of a student's learning comes from outside those core requirements. "You can't have an educated population who really does not understand the value of music and art and the value of reading and understanding the value of Shakespeare and Moli re or whatever it is," Gee said. Gee said he thinks OSU should offer options, but he's opposed to a mandatory three-year degree. "Because of the fact that in engineering and science and humanities and a variety of other things it just doesn't make any sense, in fact, if anything a more rounded degree. But in certain instances, under certain occasions, with certain kinds of expectations it is absolutely one of those kinds of things we ought to consider," he said. Reaction from students also is mixed. Clayton Walter is a sophomore at OSU studying English and film. "I think if it's not saving money it's not really that beneficial although it would allow people to get out into the real world quicker, so it kind of depends on what their priority is," Walter said. Monica Okon is a fifth year senior studying food, agricultural and biological engineering. Okon said she's been on scholarship. But for those having to pay their way a three-year degree could be beneficial. And she does not think it would detract from the education or life lessons gained through college. "You're first year you kind of learn of a lot of those things being away from home and all the independence being away from home. And then it's the same thing for your second year or third year. You're just not paying for the additional year or two years of college education," Okon said. It's yet to be seen how colleges and universities would institute a fast-tracked degree, whether they reduce credit hours or whether they allow students to proficiency out of more classes. The final budget bill is pending in the legislature.