Augustana will launch a pilot program beginning summer 2024 that helps students save money and time by following an accelerated track to complete a degree in three years.
Students in the Degree in 3 program will take classes year-round to fast-track their education and must be majoring in accounting, business administration, elementary education, management, multimedia entrepreneurship, nursing or sports management.
“[Degree in 3] is taking the 124 credit hours that are required for a bachelor’s degree and condensing that into a shorter window so that students can get out into the workforce sooner,” Adam Heinitz, associate vice president for enrollment management, said.
The program could also help Augustana avoid a drop in student numbers during the approaching enrollment cliff, which is a dramatic drop in the college-aged population because of the 2008 financial crisis.
Post-secondary institutions will have to compete more fiercely to attract prospective students in the coming years. According to Heinitz, Degree in 3 helps Augustana reach a new student population of time- and cost-conscious high schoolers.
The Division of Student Affairs and Student Engagement are also collaborating to grow summer residence life and event programming, so students in the Degree in 3 program still get the traditional college experience.
“It gives us an opportunity to make better use of our summer campus,” Joel Johnson, interim provost, said.
Depending on the amount of college-level courses they completed in high school, Degree in 3 students will also still have the opportunity to complete a double major, internships and research projects.
During the fall and spring semesters, students on the Degree in 3 track will pay the standard tuition and housing rates. However, course fees along with housing and dining costs will decrease during the summer semester to counteract decreased financial aid.
According to Heinitz, students will pay $375 per credit hour and $500 per month for housing and dining services throughout the summer months compared to $485 per credit hour for a student not in the Degree in 3 program.
The savings may seem small, but students would see an earlier return on investment, Heinitz said.
“The four-year student is paying tuition and not earning a salary for four years. The three-year student is paying less over three years, but then in year four is earning almost as much as they would have spent in tuition over that time,” Heinitz said.
Johnson hopes changes to the time and cost associated with earning a degree will help prospective students consider Augustana as a three-year institution.
“Four years is great, might still be the best solution for most students,” Johnson said. “Five years is appropriate for some for a variety of reasons. Three years might be the sweet spot for others.”
Heinitz and Johnson are hopeful that once students complete the Degree in 3 program, they may continue to an Augustana graduate program, such as a Master of Business Administration.
Roxanne Stevens, dean of the School of Business, said the opportunity for graduate school after completing Degree in 3 could be attractive for students looking to enter the workforce sooner.
“Sometimes it's easier if you're already in the habit of school and… that's part of your life, it's sometimes easier just to finish,” Stevens said.
Overall, Johnson believes the addition of the Degree in 3 program will encourage prospective students to take a more serious look at what Augustana has to offer.
“We’ve built our new programs both at the undergrad and graduate level,” Johnson said. “I think the Degree in 3 is just another tool we have to attract students.”