Here’s your degree, but what’s your hurry?

by The Simpsonian Editors

In a story in this week’s issue, (“The fifth year decision”) students and administrators discuss the various reasons for taking five years to complete a degree. Some say they make the choice to stay around for a sport. Others are obligated by incomplete work.

Implicit here seems to be a growing trend toward students who wish to finish as quickly as possible; sometimes a semester or even a full year ahead of schedule. One might notice an advertisement this week for a fast track one year MBA program at a university in the region. Simpson, in order to keep up with competitive small private colleges, prides itself on almost guaranteeing an undergraduate degree in four or fewer years. This is rarely a guarantee at many larger universities.

All in all, there seems to exist an idea that the sooner one can get a signed diploma in hand and join the work force, the better. So why all the rush?

At the root seems to be the ever-present financial concern. The price of a quality college education increases annually. Student debt climbs with the price of tuition. Institutions do what they can to provide aid, but there are obvious limits to how much tuition can be forgiven. Meanwhile federal and state goverments continue to cut aid programs out of the budget (Iowa Tuition Grant). In the end, fewer and fewer Americans have the economic means to become educated in any comprehensive way.

There seems to a be fundamental conflict here. Americans want to think that their society is well-educated. A college degree remains a highly-valued commodity. Meanwhile, many feel forced to try to get as much bang out of their educational buck as possible. The result: institutions meet this demand with lower standards and fast track programming.

The bottom line is that quality education takes a lot of time and money. Doesn’t it seem that a civilized society would wish to further its collective education? Don’t we owe ourselves that much? How about “Educational Finance Reform?” How about now.