The first annual CAS Student-Alumni Debate, held earlier this month, was comprised of arguments for and against a three-year undergraduate education model. The debate raised questions concerning NYU’s current undergraduate degree structure that includes both three-year and four, but also potentially provided an answer to it’s age-old problem of costing too much money.
With much of Europe having three-year bachelor degrees in their universities — part of what is called the Bologna process — the discussion over whether or not NYU should adopt a similar system has become more relevant. In Europe, this shift was largely due to the assumption that most students are seeking the equivalent of a master’s degree that would take five or six years, and so the policy simply separates such a degree into a three years bachelor’s and two years master’s.
Controversy surrounding the idea stems from the fact that colleges would have to cut down or eliminate core requirements to accommodate these degrees. During the debate, CAS sophomore Bryte Bu and 2017 graduate Will Lockwood argued that doing so would limit the skills and communal ties which core classes develop. However, I question the validity of this argument. Research has shown that many graduates of the three-year degrees in Germany do well following graduation, earning more than their vocationally trained counterparts who studied for a longer duration of time. The potential benefits of core classes are overrated and not worth the extra year of tuition they generally require.
Yet colleges in America seem to hold these general requirements in high regard, as the acceptance of Advanced Placement credits as college credits — a common way for students to avoid core classes — is often restricted in some way. NYU’s policy accepts credit from 22 out of 39 AP tests listed on its admissions site, and caps the number of credits one can receive from AP tests at 32. I believe much of these restrictions, like the claims made by Bu and Lockwood, are an excuse for colleges to take more money from students. Many people cite how general education makes students well-rounded, better people, but is this the goal of college? Some students simply want to learn what is necessary for them to get a job and make enough money to pay off the debt they are likely accumulating. Claims of the benefits of general education classes are reminiscent of those by sketchy juice cleanse advocates who promise self betterment through methods that are actually harmful. Like these companies, NYU is most likely looking to benefit monetarily from your unnecessary, additional efforts.
All in all, the benefits of a three-year bachelor’s degree far outweigh the costs — at least for students. Although NYU has some accelerated programs available, they are only available to certain majors and students. It would be beneficial to extend the availability of these programs to all students, as promoting such a program at an expensive college like NYU would make it a more achievable option for many students who cannot afford to waste a year’s tuition on classes with limited tangible benefits.
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Email Victor Porcelli at [email protected].