Shortening the Treadmill
By Dylan Matthews
NYU professor Joshua Tucker argues that colleges should award bachelor's degrees after three years – not by adding summer classes, as Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and Gerald Kauvar argue in the New York Times this morning, but by requiring fewer classes. Tucker is right that this would offer a number of benefits, not least in encouraging (short) graduate study and reducing tuition costs. If the British system, where three-year bachelor's degrees are the norm, is any indication, such a system would also encourage gap years before college, which would be a healthy development.
That being said, Tucker's proposal should terrify those of us who worry about the easy-to-enter recruiting treadmill that investment banks and management consulting firms have set up on college campuses. Some people figure out a path to a job they love in college. Premed students spend their time doing research and taking the necessary science classes, and end up well-prepared to go to med school. Wannabe teachers enroll in certification programs and graduate as qualified educators. Journalists can spend their time freelancing or working for the school paper, either of which can ease their way into further jobs.
And then there's most people. If you spend college studying what you love, regardless of how it might affect a future career, chances are you'll pick something without a clear next step. Philosophy of language and Slavic literature aren't fields that lead to obvious career paths, other than academia. So students in those areas find themselves in junior year without a paid internship, and look for the easiest tracks to enter. And those, as Ezra's friend on Wall Street explained, tend to be with investment banks and management consultancies.
Tucker's proposal would speed this process up considerably. Instead of having three years to find work they love, or to spend studying something they love without concern about its marketability, students will have only two. These second-year students will probably have less idea of what they want to do, panic more, and be more susceptible to the streamlined banking/consulting/recruiting process. Admittedly, this isn't a problem on every campus, and the tuition concerns Tucker raises probably outweigh it, but if you think finance and consulting are growing too large as sectors, or are snatching up too many students who could be doing more useful or interesting things, three-year college wouldn't help.
-- Dylan Matthews is a student at Harvard and a researcher at The Washington Post.
Posted by: StokeyWan | May 25, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: missionpeak | May 25, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Unwisdom | May 25, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rt42 | May 25, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Asherlc | May 25, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JJenkins2 | May 25, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BHeffernan1 | May 25, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: theorajones1 | May 25, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ajw_93 | May 25, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ethanpollack | May 25, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: qwe1231 | May 25, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: glenerian | May 25, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sam_mar | May 25, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: penguins123 | May 25, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Patrick_M | May 25, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RichardHSerlin | May 25, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: will12 | May 25, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bupkiss | May 26, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.