Purdue plan would save students time, money

Published: .
Updated: .
Time is money and Purdue University plans to save students and parents both.

It's almost unheard of in higher education, just ask any parent. A four-year college degree in just three years? There are big savings, but big expectations for students, as well.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels put out the challenge, promising any of its schools or programs a half-million dollar reward for squeezing a four-year degree down to three. The University's Lamb School of Communication turned back the clock.

Kris Jones just graduated. He was working on video project and wishing he had the three-year option four years ago.

"From a financial standpoint, definitely, three years would be the way to go," he said.

In her office down the hall, Professor Marifran Mattson was excited.

"It's a huge deal," she said with a big smile.

The head of the School of Communication pushed for the changes. In just three months, the school reorganized class schedules, teaching schedules and classroom space. It created summer sessions, all to make the three-year degree possible.

"We commit to it. We guarantee it," Mattson said. "However, the student has to make a pretty strong commitment to it as well."

That commitment begins with freshmen. Class schedules are mapped out years in advance. They include classes over two summers. Although students would save money and time, Jones worried they wouldn't have time or flexibility to experiment and explore other interests.

"There would be no changing your mind. No fooling around," he said. "You would have to go (from) 8 a.m. probably to 6. It would be a packed schedule."

But the rewards would be significant. Administrators figure the three-year degree would save students about $9,000. That's a conservative estimate. According to Indiana's Commission on Higher Education, only 42 percent of Purdue students graduate in four years and most take longer.

The Buchanan family is visiting college campuses this summer. Dad Bill was intrigued with the prospect of paying for three years of college.

"Get on with our life, get a job, that's great," he said with a smile.

With three kids looking at colleges, the family is looking for ways to save money. But both parents were skeptical of squeezing everything into three years.

Mary Buchanan ticked off the list.

"The general requirements, major requirements, plus co-op programs with businesses," she said.

Purdue insists three years is time enough for all necessary classes, internships and even studying abroad.

Some educators hope what the school of communication accomplished will be a model, a trendsetter for other schools and universities to follow to shave time and money off a four-year degree.