If bachelor's degrees are becoming the norm in the U.S, should they be reduced to a three-year track, at least for non-STEM majors?

I was browsing the plans of studies for my university's offered majors, and most of the majors seem to have MANY filler classes (free electives and general electives). Is this because universities are businesses out for students' money?

3 Answers

  • 6 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    This is a complicated question because it has many factors at play.

    1) Colleges/Universities do have a business model approach and would like to keep students in their school paying tuition. At the same students come and go all the time.

    2) Nearly every program is designed to offer the student enough flexibility in their schedule and interest. Some students may pick a major and get overwhelmed with the same material over and over. a way the filler classes can be used as a way to let the student get a "break" from major courses and get involved in a hobby or something of interest. This also allows the student to focus more time (i.e. homework) on more demanding classes while maintaining full time status.

    3) Some students are absolutely clueless as to what they want and try to give them enough leeway that they can experiment/branch out without having to redo every course simply because they decided to change majors.

    4) A large philosophy for any college education is to create a well rounded student. It is always valuable for a student to hold a conversation about politics, economics, art, philosophy, etc. Is this still common today...that is debatable but still a lofty goal.

    Let me make a simple example why all of the above work together.

    Let us say Student A picks a Major in English. If English requires 20 English/Language oriented classes at 3 credit per class (60 credit requirement). Student A would be required to finish all 20 courses in 2 years. The other year will be spend on requirements for basic fundamentals (i.e. math, basic sciences, another language, history/philosophy, and maybe a social science). This means Student A would probably be taking 5 courses per semester in the same field of study non stop for 2 years. Each course increases in difficulty. In this example Student A would be taking 5 courses concurrently as opposed to having the ability to progress at a slower rate. English is a field that often requires extensive writing, reading, etc. 5 classes is full time at about 15 credits per semester.

    Would it be ideal to have the same material be the only focus for Student A spending hours on the same material and trying to understand difficult concepts from class #5 while studying class #1 material? Probably not. If after 2 semesters Student A decides he wants to throw every literature book out the window he might decide to pursue an ART major to illustrate his prior frustration. Well, in this case Student A will have a lot to draw about because all 10 prior courses are now worthless in ART as he will have to take 20 ART specific classes. I think you can see where the issue falls with this.

    This type of a model might be ideal for some students that have a pure passion for their study For example, I personally wouldn't object to the model because I enjoy Criminology (my major) and I actually did a similar model when I first started college. I decided to compete most of my major courses within the first 2 years and for the last 2 years I've been working on my minor and other general requirements. I actually used my electives to pick a few more difficult courses for my major (my advisor thought I was nuts at first) Other students would feel burned out from the same subject and abandon school altogether. The current structures allow students to space out 2-3 difficult courses with filler courses that can be interesting, easy, or valuable for other things.

    As you can probably see...the example I used would cause the school to lose students + money. At the same time...students would give up on education as they will get bored/annoyed and burned out. It also creates a very oriented/specific student that lacks comprehension for other fields. It almost becomes robotic in a way. Again, some can overcome these issues but others may not. I think schools can offer students more types of models/approaches but it would probably never become the standard.

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  • Lili
    Lv 7
    6 years ago

    Electives are not "filler" classes. If you think so, you misunderstand academic study entirely.

    Moreover, I see no reason why STEM majors should still require 4 years of study if other majors do not. After all, degrees in all fields are completed in 3 years in the UK. The British are quite as good at those fields as we are.

    We have a 4-year degree because the British degree took 4 years at the time our first colleges were being founded. They later moved to a 3-year degree. I have long been an advocate of reducing our time to degree to 3 years in all fields.

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  • Lori
    Lv 4
    6 years ago

    Most majors have free electives because they want to give students to freedom to help craft their own academic plan and choose what courses they take. For example, I was a History major and I was really interested in ancient Greek and Roman history, so I mostly took courses in that area. Someone who was interested in modern American history would have been able to choose mostly classes in that area.

    It is already possible to complete most non-STEM majors in 3 years if you plan appropriately and know what major you want right away. Most students don't know their major right away though - or they think they do, but then change their minds. Also,s tudents usually don't try to graduate early because they want to take full advantage of all of the opportunities at their college, including things like research, honors programs or activities outside the classroom.

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