How To Get A College Degree In Three Years: The UMR Program Is Part Of The New Trend To Accelerate Degrees – Post Bulletin

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ROCHESTER — Like many people at his stage in life, Mayo High School graduate Akhil Kollengode was tempted to leave Rochester and explore a higher education climate away from home.

But in the end, the 18-year-old Kollengode chose to stay close to home and attend the University of Minnesota at Rochester.

An important factor in his decision-making? UMR’s new accelerated health sciences program that puts Kollengode on the right track to complete his baccalaureate in two and a half years instead of four.

If all goes according to plan, Kollengode will graduate from college in December 2024, while her peers at other colleges will continue to drift away, a year and a half away from graduation.

Plus, it’ll cut one semester’s costs from its full college price: about $15,000.

His peers, Kollengode said, are often “astonished” when he tells them about the unorthodox academic path he follows. He enjoys getting their agape reactions, but his motivation is more fundamental.

“I wanted to get straight into the field of work as soon as possible,” Kollengode said.

Kollengode is one of 10 freshmen enrolled in a new program at UMR called NXT GEN MED. With a focus on health care, the idea is to get university graduates out and into the job market faster and more cheaply than in the past.

Akhil Kollengode is a freshman in the NXT GEN MED program at the University of Minnesota at Rochester. Kollengode is pictured Friday, September 23, 2022 on the UMR campus in downtown Rochester.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Accelerated study programs or three-year degree options are not entirely new. They have already been judged. Many have foundered due to lack of student interest.

In colleges where it has been tried, educators have realized there are downsides to a faster pace. College is often seen as a time of emotional and academic growth. And the compressed timeframe was seen as sacrificing one of the biggest selling points of a four-year program: the opportunity to grow as a person.

But amid growing pressure for higher education to change, the three-year option is getting a facelift. And the UMR, led by Chancellor Lori Carrell, is one of the universities taking the lead in this nascent experiment.

Over the past year, she and Robert Zemsky, a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, have recruited more than a dozen institutions to explore creating a three-year bachelor’s degree program.

“The challenge (is how to change) higher education so more students succeed and costs go down,” Carrell said. “These are challenges shared by all types of campuses – private, public, for-profit. Everyone is affected by these questions and is looking for ideas.

The so-called “Collège en 3” project created enough national buzz for the Chronicle of Higher Education to publish an article on the new initiative and the role of the UMR in leading it.

This newfound receptivity by students and schools to a three-year option, officials say, is driven by higher education’s biggest bugaboo: skyrocketing costs burdening students with tens of thousands of dollars. of debts. President Joe Biden underscored the problem when he recently announced his $500 billion student loan forgiveness plan that sparked both joy and dismay.

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Lori Carrell, chancellor of the University of Minnesota at Rochester, in July 2020 in Rochester.

Post Bulletin File Photo

This brought a sigh of relief to university graduates who have benefited from government largesse. But for those who repaid their loans or did not attend college, there was a shift in financial burden to those who had exercised financial restraint and non-students.

Over the past 30 years, average tuition fees have jumped $6,580 at public four-year colleges and $18,710 at private, nonprofit four-year institutions, after adjusting for inflation, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The average net price — the price students pay out of pocket after accounting for institutional and federal aid — also increased during this time, according to the column.

Three-year programs come in different shapes and sizes. One of the reasons for their lack of popularity is the workload it places on students. It takes a singular focus for a student to graduate from college in three years. This often means an overload of credits during the fall and spring semesters and work during the summer.

Others are considering redesigning the undergraduate curriculum so that it allows for summer breaks and holidays and on-campus experience.

The UMR adopts an intermediate approach. UMR students take classes during the summer terms, although they still benefit from breaks between fall and spring and between spring and summer.

Instead of taking semester courses, some student courses are grouped together in a block-planning format. That means subjects are taught in seven-week terms rather than the traditional 14-week semester, so “they go through classes faster,” Carrell said.

Its novelty is what appealed to Kelsey DeSmith, an 18-year-old from Walnut Grove, Minnesota, one of 10 students in the inaugural class. She said she wanted to learn more about the business side of the medical field.

University of Minnesota Rochester NXT GEN MED Program
Kelsey DeSmith is a freshman in the NXT GEN MED program at the University of Minnesota at Rochester. Kollengode is pictured Friday, September 23, 2022 on the UMR campus in downtown Rochester.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

“It helps patients indirectly,” DeSmith said. “And I really, really liked that. I wanted to use my skills and my education to help people.

Graduating from high school with a class of 19, DeSmith was used to small classes and one-on-one interactions with teachers. A paid internship at the Mayo Clinic was also a big draw.
“It’s a new program, and they want it to succeed,” DeSmith said. “You’re going to have more help.”

That the UMR is at the forefront of the “Collège en 3” project is not really a surprise. In 2006, when it was designated an official campus of the University of Minnesota system, UMR was given a clean slate to rewrite the undergraduate experience based on best practices.

A core of UMR’s identity remains faculty research – what works in the classroom. Today, the pressure for change in higher education comes from different directions: families and students looking for value, industry looking for workers and talent. And the most agile will be the best placed to take advantage of this new environment.

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Andy Petzold, NXT GEN MED faculty director at the University of Minnesota at Rochester.

Contribution / University of Minnesota Rochester

“It’s a time for innovation,” Carrell said. “At the top of the list are critical demands in our industry, healthcare, as well as many other industries. So that puts the pressure for acceleration. And yet, the cost pressure is also there.

Andy Petzold, director of the UMR faculty at NXT GEN MED, recalls a quote from former University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler when he compared the UMR to a speedboat, the system to a dreadnought.

“The University of Minnesota’s twin cities are taking a long time to transform in a new direction. And UMR has the ability (to spin faster), partly because of our size and partly because of our academic orientation.

Although described as a pilot in other universities, the UMR projects that the three-year options will be a lasting part of its future.

“We’re going to learn from the students and from the process, so we can continue to evolve,” Carrell said. “In terms of enrollment, we expect to scale (up). What will that mean? We do not know yet.

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