Wonk & Roll: Three cheers for three year degree

UMass Amherst’s announcement that it will start offering a three-year undergraduate degree is good news for ambitious students and cash strapped families looking to save some money.

For those high school seniors who can cut it, a three-year degree is a good option to have when considering where to attend college.  According to the Globe, U Mass Amherst will be “the first major university in Massachusetts to offer a formal program” of a three-year degree, giving it an edge in the hyper-competitive world of college recruitment and admissions. 

Here is what all we wonk and rollers should like about U Mass Amherst: It shouldn’t cost taxpayers any money.  It didn’t need legislative approval, either.  And at a time when students and families want a more affordable degree, it gives them a choice and a chance to go for it. 

The Washington Post’s Matt Miller has coined the phrase “disruptive government” to describe innovations that make government work better for middle-class families.  A variant of Clayton Christensen’s concept of “disruptive innovation”—ideas that radically change a service or industry for the better—Miller says there is not enough disruptive thinking in government.  The entrenched special interests of the nation’s “industrial complexes,” such as higher education, make needed change very difficult. 

Our current gubernatorial debate could use more thinking along the lines of “disruptive government” these days.  Are any of the candidates presenting new ideas that would really shake things up? 

So three cheers for the three-year degree.  Let’s hope that the five campus UMass system adopts this idea soon and start working closely with the state’s high schools to help juniors and seniors map out a three-year degree. 

One more thought.  I was in Chicago this past weekend and strolled through Millennium Park for the first time.  One word to describe that experience: wow!  Our Rose Kennedy Greenway is a nice walk, but Millennium Park is an experience.  OK, maybe I’m being over the top, but it’s a cool place to hang out, people watch, and relax. 

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