Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Three-year bachelor's degrees at the University of California

That is one of the proposals being suggested as a cost-saving or revenue-earning mechanism for the financially beleaguered UC system:
The University of California on Tuesday began considering dramatic changes in the way it educates its students and raises revenue, including whether to offer three-year bachelor's degrees and enroll more out-of-state undergraduates.

UC's Commission on the Future heard its first set of proposals aimed at making the 10-campus system more efficient while preserving its academic strengths. Some ideas are sure to be controversial as they are discussed over the next few months, officials said.

"Some recommendations you may like a lot. Some you may think are terrible. But that's OK. They are important ideas to put forward," UC Regents Chairman Russell S. Gould said at the commission's meeting at UC San Francisco.

Proposals from the commission's five subcommittees include: encouraging some students to complete bachelor's degrees in three years through extra summer sessions and fewer requirements; doubling the number of out-of-state students, who now make up 5% of undergraduates and pay significantly higher fees; charging more for the most popular campuses, including UC Berkeley and UCLA; and expanding online course offerings.
When I was there (I graduated from UCI in the 1990s), it was all but impossible to get out in just four years, even if one were to aggressively knock down graduation requirements during summer school. But then again, why would one want to? Sure, you can save money by being in school only four years instead of five, but three years plus summers is about the same cost as four years anyway.

By cutting down on the time spent in school — especially if it is because of a curtailment of required classes — some students will get shortchanged when it comes to something like, writing skills, critical thinking, or even exposure to a wide range of subject matter. Frankly, I think every class I took at UCI was valuable and I would have been worse off for not having taken them. (This is one reason I'm opposed to the heavy emphasis on AP tests in lieu of required courses). And that's not even considering whether a twenty-one-year-old is ready for the real world (knowing what I know now, I would be far more inclined to hire a four-year graduate than a three-year graduate, even with the same coursework and performance).

And for those of you who wonder what Korean Immigration would do with three-year degrees from the prestigious University of California, well, they would still be the equivalent of a four-year degree, so I don't think there's much to worry about there.


  1. I wouldn't say it's far from impossible to graduate in 4 years. I never understood why so many students took so long to graduate. I understand your point about taking beneficial courses that aren't otherwise required (I took Korean, even though I didn't need to)but I have to say that a lot of students who cannot graduate in 4 years (particularly the non-science majors) need to prioritize their lives better. I graduated from a UC myself (San Diego) and it was not difficult to graduate in 4 fact, a couple of my friends graduated in 3- 3 1/2 years. Those who took longer, were the ones who either changed majors (I changed my major once too) or did not know how to prioritize or kept dropping classes. It also means occasionally having to take a full schedule of credits. I was dying to get out of school...why would you want to stay longer than you have to??

  2. Thank god I went to a REAL university... USC.

    The UC System... giving new meaning to the phrase "not worth the paper it's written on"... ;)

  3. Okay, in all seriousness... I think the UC system can still save money without diluting the value of their degree. They should accept more foreign students (who never need financial aid), they could accept more students who have taken the AP courses to come in with sophomore standing, they can accept more transfers, etc.


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