Friday, February 17, 2017

N.Y.U. Paves Way to Graduate Faster

Students at New York University, where a year of Undergraduate Education can run to about $66,000 in room, board, tuition and fees, often complain about the cost of four years at the school in Greenwich Village.

Now, N.Y.U. has a suggestion for them: Finish faster.

The University plans to announce a series of measures that make it easier to graduate in under four years, part of an initiative aimed at diminishing the University’s enormous affordability problem.

In some ways, the School is just catching up with its Students. Ellen Schall, a Senior Presidential Fellow and the Head of the University’s Affordability Steering Committee, which is tackling College cost on a number of fronts, said that about 20% of N.Y.U. Students already graduated ahead of schedule.

“We were surprised,” Professor Schall said. “That’s part of what convinced us we needed to make this more transparent and more available to more students.”

N.Y.U.’s “Acceleration” announcement relies on a few shifts. For example, at this elite Private institution, while Students pay for 18 credits per Semester, many actually take only 16, officials said, so the University will increase the number of Two-Credit Courses it offers.

It will also allow many Students to transfer in up to Eight Credits from other Schools, like Local Community Colleges where they can take inexpensive classes over the summer. In the past, this has been allowed on a case-by-case basis. In addition, the University has trained Advisers to help Students create schedules that will get them to their Three-Year Goal.

But some who study Education wonder what Students will miss if they rush through their Undergraduate years, and they worry about who will feel pressure to make those sacrifices.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a Professor of Higher Education Policy at Temple University, said that shaving time off College as a way to make it more affordable could raise some troubling questions. In College, she said, there is academic learning, but there are also important experiences outside the classroom, like the social networks students build, study abroad programs and internships, assuming Students do not have to hold down jobs that crowd out those things in the first place.

While some Students can get what they need academically in three years, Dr. Goldrick-Rab said, packing in all those credits can take away from the time they can spend on other things. “We agree that the price of college is a problem,” she said. But she questioned whether the solution was “to essentially have less college, or less time in college.” “It’s interesting,” she said of accelerated schedules, “but it worries me.”

Students have long found ways to make it through school in three or three and a half years, but there is increasing momentum to streamline the process in the face of ballooning outrage over College costs and Student Debt.

Gov. John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, pushed to make it easier for Students in his State to Graduate from Public Colleges early by allowing more credits from High School or Technical programs. Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin, included in his budget proposal this month that Schools in the University of Wisconsin system should create a Three-Year Degree for 60% of its programs by the summer of 2020.

Individual Schools, like Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., which is also a State School, have also begun experimenting with Three-Year Degree options. But they are not always popular. As of this May, Purdue expects 14 students to have graduated in three and a half years or less, since the program was announced in 2014. “So far, we haven’t had a lot of takers,” said Josh Boyd, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue. “When we speak to parents, they tend to be more excited about it than the students.”

But the costs at Private Colleges dwarf those at State Schools, even for Out-of-State Students, and while N.Y.U. is expensive, many other Private Universities also cost $60,000 or more a year.

Ashley Korkeakoski-Sears, an N.Y.U. English major who is on track to graduate this May after just three years, said that she did not regret speeding through. While she had to skip some fun classes, like hip-hop dance, she has had time for plenty of experiences. She interned at the International Rescue Committee, she has worked as an Office assistant and an Executive assistant, and she studied abroad in Madrid.

Ms. Korkeakoski-Sears said she decided to hustle through to save money. She expected to receive less Financial Aid her Senior Year because her mother planned to go back to work.

But this track is not for everyone, she said. Ms. Korkeakoski-Sears, who describes herself as a planner, said she knew she wanted to be an English major when she was a Junior in High School. Students who need time to to figure that out, as most do, would be better served taking their time, she said. “I definitely think this is a way to ease the burden for now, but I don’t think it’s a long-term solution” to the cost of college, Ms. Korkeakoski-Sears said. “It doesn’t take into account every type of student, and every type of student should have the ability to make college affordable to themselves.”

Professor Schall agreed that this solution was not for everyone, nor did it suffice on its own. The Affordability Committee, which was convened by N.Y.U.’s President, Andrew Hamilton, is experimenting with a variety of ways to cut down on costs and give Students a financial lift. There are small-ticket items, Facebook can alert students if there is food left over after staff meetings, and those that are much larger. The University froze the cost of Room and Board this school year for the first time in decades. Tuition increased this year, but Professor Schall said it was the lowest percentage increase in 20 years.

Couldn’t N.Y.U. and other Colleges solve the problem just by cutting how much they charge? Professor Schall said there was a constant pressure on Universities to increase their capacity to teach and do research, “and those things are expensive.”

“There is no silver bullet,” she continued. “If we could triple our endowment, that would be lovely, but short of that, we’re looking at everything from the price of books to the use of temporary employees,” she said. “We’re trying to be as creative as we can.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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