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It's time to move beyond the 4-year degree

It's time to move beyond the 4-year degree

The assumption that a college education should take four years is baked into American culture. Colleges in the colonial days were founded on the premise of a four-year degree, a concept imported from Europe. Harvard University experimented with a three-year degree when it was founded in 1636, but the test was short-lived, and the four-year degree has been the standard ever since. We expect students to enter college at 18 and leave when they turn 22, and we worry about those who take a more circuitous route to graduation.

But we need to reconsider that long-established, one-size-fits all model. For many students, attending college for four consecutive years is no longer the...

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