Saturday, February 28, 2009

An Option to Save $40,000: Squeeze College Into 3 Years

For many years, Australian and British bachelor's degrees have been 3-year degrees

Here's one way of cutting college costs: get a degree in three years, instead of four. This fall, Hartwick College, a small liberal arts college in Oneonta, N.Y., will offer students the option of doing just that, at a savings of more than $40,000. In the college's three-year degree program, students will complete the standard 120 credits, taking 18 credits in the fall, 4 in a January term and 18 in the spring. Students will be able to keep their summers free for internships or jobs. Whether for a three-year degree or a four-year one, Hartwick's tuition next year will be $32,550, 3.9 percent higher than the current year. Room and board will be about $9,000. "We anticipate a great deal of interest in an option that lets students get a top-quality education and save a whole year of tuition," said Margaret L. Drugovich, president of Hartwick.

Although most American students now take longer than four years to complete their degrees, the idea of three-year degrees has been gaining favor in some circles, with several colleges talking about or experimenting with such programs, often involving online courses or summer school.

Earlier this month, at the American Council on Education's annual meeting, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a Republican who served as education secretary and president of the University of Tennessee, urged colleges to consider three-year degrees, calling them the higher education equivalent of a fuel-efficient car.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the council, said she believed the three-year degree option could help private colleges attract students as more families struggle with tuition costs. "Three-year degrees are a very important option, and I think we'll be seeing more of them," she said. "They won't serve a large proportion of students since a three-year degree requires that you finish high school college-ready, enroll full-time and be focused."

Some schools that considered the three-year approach have encountered strong resistance from faculty - or little interest from students. At Upper Iowa University, for example, a three-year option created about five years ago remains on the books, although only five students signed up for it and not one actually finished a degree in three years.

Three-year undergraduate degrees are the norm in Europe, but for the most part, students there have an extra year of schooling before going to a university, apply to a particular department and do not take general-education courses.

Although a growing number of American students arrive in college with several Advanced Placement credits, the College Board discusses that program not as a route to early graduation, but rather as a tool to promote on-time graduation.

Hartwick's three-year program will be open only to students with at least a 3.0 high school grade-point average and will be offered in 22 of the college's 31 programs. "This is not an easy thing for a college to do, and there are some programs, like music education, where we just didn't think students could get through in three years," Dr. Drugovich said. "In each program, students signed up for a three-year degree will have a special adviser to help them move through their courses."


Australia: Schools dump stupid Leftist grading scheme

A PIVOTAL part of the controversial outcomes-based education system will be killed off at WA schools. From 2010, teachers will no longer use a "levels" system to calculate grades for school reports for Years 1 to 10. But Education Department Director General Sharyn O'Neill said schools could "choose to dispense with levels with immediate effect". "Certainly the use of levels to assess and report to parents has been a major platform of OBE and we're removing that today," she said today at a media conference at Applecross Primary School.

Ms O'Neill said simplifying assessment by removing the use of levels would free teachers to focus on teaching and make it easier for parents to track their child's achievement at school. "Teachers will continue to report to parents using A to E grades, but without the current requirement of having to convert levels to grades," she said. Levels were dropped for years 11 and 12 in early 2007, after extreme pressure on the previous Labor Government from the anti-OBE group People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes. Many teachers felt that the eight levels of achievement were too complex, inconsistent, and created unnecessary and time-consuming paperwork.

Ms O'Neill said parents had told her they had been "confused" by levels. She said that to determine grades under the new system, teachers would use their ``professional judgement''. But Ms O'Neill, who conceded that WA had previously gone further with OBE than other states, also said teachers would be given online resources showing what standard earned a particular grade. "I want to make sure that an A in Albany is the same as an A in Applecross, as in any other place,'' she said. The Education Department would also give principals a grade distribution guide.

Ms O'Neill said student grades would be based on information including class work, tests and a student's performance in national literacy and numeracy tests. From what she could see, the new system would be compatible with the proposed national curriculum.

The move is seen as honouring a pre-election commitment by the Liberals, who when in Opposition promised an independent audit of WA's curriculum framework by an expert advisory group if they won government and to abolish levels from kindergarten to Year 10. Education Minister Liz Constable said she applauded the decision because unlike the new system, the use of levels did not meet the criteria of being fair to students, easily understood by parents and not creating extra and unnecessary work for teachers.

Rob Fry, president of peak parent group the WA Council of State School Organisations, said the move was a positive step in the right direction. "This way the teachers can focus on doing the grades, making the best judgement from their professional point of view and everyone will know exactly how the child is progressing,'' Mr Fry said.

Applecross Primary School principal Barry France said his teachers would appreciate the decision because it would save them doing a "significant'' amount of work that was part of an "unnecessary bureaucratic step'' - freeing them to focus on teaching and learning.


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