Undergrad needs four years

The Ministry of Colleges and Universities has floated some ideas concerning post-secondary education reform.

Suggestions include a three-year bachelor’s degree, year-round class and allowing students to earn half of their credits online.

These are changes that need to be resisted in order to protect the integrity, depth and breadth of a four-year bachelor’s degree.

On Feb. 21, the provincial government’s Higher Education Quality Council published a report suggesting that Ontario follow global trends, condensing four-year degrees into three years. The recommendation carries with it a host of problems, such as a heavier workload for students.

Transitioning from high school to university can be difficult and making the change even more sharp could set students up for failure.

Reducing a four-year degree to three shrinks the amount of education that a student gets, hindering their ability to develop critical thinking and analytical skills.

University isn’t just about getting a degree, and there’s a significant amount of learning that happens outside the classroom in extracurricular activities.

Cutting down the length of an undergraduate degree also cuts down the potential for out-of-class experiences.

Allowing students to graduate earlier will fast-track them into the workforce but it doesn’t do anything to help their employment potential. It would simply be pushing them into an uncertain labour market at a faster rate.

Changing degree lengths is a significant undertaking and requires substantial changes to the curricula at each institution. A study released on Feb. 21 by the Higher Edcuation Strategy Associates, an arm’s length provincial research and advisory group, stated that a three-year degree may not even reduce costs. Redesigning and condensing programs carries a price tag that may cancel out the benefit of not paying for a fourth year.

The Ministry’s other suggestions are also problematic. Having year-round class is detrimental to students who use the summer months for full-time employment. Losing four months to work could be a hard hit on student budgets.

Having half of a degree’s credits earned online would be a loss for quality of education. Participating in a class online simply isn’t an adequate substitute for time spent in a classroom with a professor. The changes proposed for post-secondary education have a number of difficulties associated with them. Students don’t want to rush through their undergraduate degrees — ask a fifth-year.

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