Ask the Dean: No need to rush graduation in three years

2010-07-19T00:00:00Z 2010-07-26T16:54:29Z Ask the Dean: No need to rush graduation in three yearsAli Malekzadeh Arizona Daily Star
July 19, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Question: Why aren't U.S. colleges offering 3-year baccalaureate degrees, similar to some Asian and European nations? My 17-year old daughter will save a lot of money if she completes her degree in three years.

Answer: Let me see if I get this right: You want to send your 17-year-old to college for only three years and then to work for the rest of her life? Everyone I know who works full time wants to quit and go back to college. What's the rush?

Sure, expense is a factor, but so is maturity. Here are three reasons why we should not cram a four-year education into three:

First, it takes a year for a 17-year-old or 18-year-old to feel comfortable in college, make friends, get to know the faculty and learn to live with roommates. Freshman year is one of the most stressful years in a student's life. Many things can go wrong: A low grade in the midterm, a fight with a roommate, a bounced check and so on. While each incident is not that important, given that these students are away from home, each problem is magnified. About 25 percent of students never make it to their second semester. They simply pack and go home.

Second, your daughter is in college to learn and to grow up. The learning takes time; so does growing up. She needs to learn to make small mistakes and live by the consequences. I sometimes tell parents to think about college as the "halfway house between their home and the society." Students need to learn to be self-motivated and to manage their own lives.

Third, I assure you that when your daughter comes home after her junior year, you will notice that she is just beginning to become a self-confident adult. Seniors are easy to spot in any college. They smile a lot; they mentor other students; and they start to figure out what they want in their lives. Sending them to work after the junior year will deprive them of a chance to really grow up before they enter the work force. I recently talked to a friend of mine who did graduate in three years and, 20 years later, he still regrets it.

Send your questions and stories about college to Dean Ali Malekzadeh at askthedean@gmail.com. Please include your name and hometown for possible publication. Ali Malekzadeh is a former administrator and faculty member at Arizona State University. He is dean of the Williams College of Business at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

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