Wesleyan Introduces Three-Year Graduation Option
In response to the trend in rising tuition, the University has decided to introduce a three-year graduation option in which students fulfill requirements on an accelerated track and graduate a year earlier than otherwise typical. The administration believes that this plan will offer students a more affordable option if paying for college is a hardship and will also make room for more new students.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the option is growing increasingly popular. In a recent article, U.S. News stated that, during the fall of 2011, several schools including Grace College and Seminary, Baldwin-Wallace College, Lesley University, and St. John’s University introduced three-year degree programs. The same article said that even more institutions are currently considering this option.
Because there is a larger course load per year, students who choose this three-year track may lose out on certain aspects of college life. President Michael Roth said that students’ social lives will certainly be affected because their time on campus is drastically reduced. However, he stated that for students who are not on a full scholarship, or who are on a full scholarship but still have to help their families with tuition, graduating early may be a very helpful option.
“I think having more choices is a good thing for Wesleyan students,” Roth said.
Although this option is not specifically linked to the administration’s decision to end need-blind admissions, it does address financial difficulties students may encounter as a result of rising tuition costs. The administration has confirmed that financial aid packages for already-admitted students will not change with the changes to the University’s need-blind policy.
Future classes will not be completely need-blind, reducing the chance that low-income students will be admitted and subsequently receive full financial aid. Students who need to take out loans to pay their tuition balance may consider graduating early so that they owe less when they graduate. Graduating in three years will save students the equivalent of about a year’s worth of tuition, or a total of around $62,785 according to the University’s current tuition bill.
There is some precedent for the three-year graduation option at the University. Several students have chosen to graduate early on their own, citing the financial burden of attending college among other reasons. Roth himself spent only three years at the University before graduating in 1978.
There is also an engineering program, known as the 3-2 program, which consists of three years of liberal arts education at the University followed by two years at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University or the engineering program at California Institute for Technology (Caltech). Students in the 3-2 program complete basic requirements for a liberal arts major and math and science requirements for entrance into engineering school, and they earn a B.A. from Wesleyan and a B.Sc. from Caltech or Columbia.
While both of these paths are feasible, students may not generally consider graduating in three years to be a viable option.
“I want to make [the three-year graduation option] less weird, so somebody who might be afraid to choose it will say, ‘Oh, I can do that,’” Roth said.
Roth said that he thinks the three-year graduation option will grow slowly. He believes that there won’t be a massive movement in that direction, but if a couple hundred students did it a year, these students would be replaced, adding new students to a class year. For this to happen, Roth said that it would have to occur organically.
Though the future of a three-year graduation option remains uncertain, Roth has spoken and written publicly about his support for this option in publications such as USA Today and The Washington Post.
“By making this experience a little more accessible, I am betting we will only add to the diversity and quality of the experience for all our undergraduates,” wrote Roth in a guest post for The Washington Post.