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A College Degree in Three Years? Why America Needs to Get on Board

Three-year degree programs save money and help students get on with their lives, but American students aren't signing up. They should be.

You'd think that given the spiraling cost of college, American students would jump at the chance to finish up school in three years instead of the typical four. With a three-year accelerated degree, parents have to fork over less cash for tuition and room and board, the family's loan burden is lighter, and students can get on with their career plans earlier. How does this not make sense? But despite the best efforts of both public and private universities to promote accelerated programs, students are sticking with the four-year college tradition. That's too bad because a three-year degree is a smart idea that we should be adopting.


American colleges typically offer four-year programs because that was the British tradition and Harvard, the first university in America, continued it. Our cousins in the U.K. abandoned the four-year schedule for the shorter three-year one a long time ago. But, according to the Washington Post, recession-inspired accelerated programs on this side of the Atlantic are failing miserably. Lake Forest College outside of Chicago has had zero takers for its accelerated program. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro started an accelerated program last fall and only had five students sign up. Ball State University in Indiana had a mere 29 enrollees, and Manchester College, also in Indiana, only had 20 students. The three-year Global Scholars program at American University in Washington is seen as a success. Fifty-eight students are expected to enroll this fall, out of a freshman class of about 1,200 students.

So why are American students resisting compressing four years of learning into a much less expensive three? Part of the problem is that there hasn't been a wholesale adoption of three-year college programs. If Harvard were to announce that it's switching its entire undergraduate program over to a rigorous three-year experience—take it or leave it—or if the 10-campus University of California system made the switch, that would set a new trend and other schools would be sure to adopt it. But for now, three-year programs are still seen as novelties.

Another issue is that because three-year programs are so intense and structured, a freshman needs to know right away what she wants to major in, and then stick to a pretty rigid curriculum. That leaves a lot less time for intellectual exploration, and if you want to change majors, you're screwed. One solution is to change the way high school is set up to give students more opportunities to figure out what career they want, which is something plenty of education reformers are calling for already. The other obvious solution is for schools to change the programs so that there's more wiggle room in case a student decides to switch from economics to sociology.

Of course, one other reason we balk at changing college to a three-year experience has nothing to do with academics and everything to do with the cultural experiences and freedom students have when they're in college. It's a real luxury to be able to savor the college experience and absorb the learning environment, and, OK, the partying and social life. There really is no time in our lives like the time we spend on campus.

But I have two sons and given the rising costs of higher education, the prospect of putting them through college in another decade, or seeing them have to borrow astronomical amounts of money to get a degree, makes me sweat. Ultimately we're going to have to decide as a society whether that extra year of freedom is worth the financial cost.

In the meantime, Harvard, how about starting a new trend?

Articles

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet
Instagram / Leonardo DiCaprio

This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.

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The Planet