Should College Be Only Three Years Long?

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The Freakonomics blog highlights an article by Reuven Brenner, an economics professor at McGill University, which suggests that shortening college to three years could yield huge economic benefits, adding $80 to $160 billion to the national income for each year that college students start work earlier. 

These earnings, plus the interest they generate, “could do a lot to shore up entitlement programs, with a more positive impact than requiring people 65 and older to stay in the labor force much longer,” Brenner writes.

While the Freakonomics folks were struck by Brenner’s economic argument, my eye was caught by this paragraph in his article:

“Also, having to finish one’s studies in fewer years will make it clearer to young Americans that they are in competition with hundreds of millions of young Chinese, Indian, and Latin American peers, previously held behind by the Iron and other dictatorial curtains. These foreign students do not have, and will not have for decades to come, the luxury of combining their education with too much fun and leisure over too many years, financed by either parents or taxpayers, as U.S. students got accustomed to during the last few decades. A new awareness will bring about greater discipline, less boredom, and fewer vices in American students.” (Read more here.)

That seems awfully optimistic to me. I fear that if college were cut short, students would simply learn less than they already do (see my Time.com column, “Does College Put Kids On A ‘Party Pathway’?“).

What do you think?


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One Response to “Should College Be Only Three Years Long?”

  1. Michael Isla says:

    It seems like Brenner is not taking into consideration how immature college students are. Perhaps blasting them into the work stratosphere may be a good change except what jobs are college graduates actually getting?
    There are more and more frivolous degrees to lure students into college with no jobs at the end of the rainbow. Yours truly has a masters in music and was teaching twinkle twinkle little star to five year olds for almost zero money. Now I’m getting a nursing degree.
    Maybe we should educate our children to choose careers that have job placement and let them pursue their passions after they are independent and paying taxes.

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