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Imagine a NEW Bachelor's degree

By creating an industry-designed Bachelor's degree, we eliminate expensive breadth coursework, minimizing time and costs for students.

Photo of Caitlin Sikora
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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

The Bachelor's Degree - Professional Track helps career-oriented students develop necessary skills to begin their professional lives. Through collaboration between employers and university departments, we can optimize the efficiency of each department's curriculum in preparing students for the working world. By eliminating expensive breadth coursework, we enable students to acquire the same depth of knowledge in a desired field as a traditional Bachelor’s degree more quickly and at lower cost.

 Take Tommy, for example.  Tommy is a high school senior at a public school in the suburbs of Maryland.  He was adopted by his foster parents in middle school and feels indebted to them for their support.  He has worked hard throughout his school years, excelling in math and science, and Tommy has just been admitted to Princeton University as a, Aerospace Engineering major, where the cost of a traditional Bachelor's degree is $63,720 per year for four years.  

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This opportunity is a dream come true for Tommy, and he has worked hard to earn it, but his adoptive mother is a school teacher, and his adoptive father works for BGE.  With his parents combined incomes, Tommy was only offered $25,000 per year (calculated with approximate numbers on the Princeton Aid Calculator), but he knows that his parents cannot afford the rest of the cost.  Tommy is so self-conscious about asking his parents for help that he is hiding his admission...

UNTIL!  Tommy discovers an appealing option: a Professional Track Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Engineering.  This alternative to the traditional Bachelor's degree is streamlined to produce work-force-ready graduates in minimal time: about 2.5 years.  This option cuts the overall cost of Tommy's undergraduate education from $254,880 to $159,300.  With Tommy's financial aid award, his overall cost is down to $109,300, including room and board, which seems much more reasonable of an ask on his parents.

Tommy worries at first that he will miss out on the traditional college experience, along with breadth course work to develop his perspective, but Tommy knows exactly what career he wants to pursue, and he is excited to get started.  He will still have the experience of living on campus in the dorms, being part of a curious intellectual community, and immersing himself in school work, but at just over half of the cost.  

With this alternative option, the Professional Track Bachelor's Degree, Tommy resolves to share the news with his parents.  They are elated with Tommy's achievement, and as a family, Tommy and his parents come up with a plan for Tommy to graduate in 2.5 years, with only $10,000 in student debt, fully qualified and prepared to begin working as a full-time engineer immediately after graduation.  

We believe it is possible for a student with a narrow focus to develop the appropriate skills for their desired career in less time at lower cost by eliminating some of the excess requirements.  The goal is to educate students at the Bachelor's degree level in the same amount of time as an Associate's degree in the field of their choice without sacrificing their depth of knowledge and preparation for working life.

Implementing a program like this presents is not without its challenges. We've spoken to employers from different technical fields to redesign college curricula to produce employable candidates in less time. We've attached sample curricula for business and engineering.

Universities have been traditionally run with the idea of providing a holistic learning experience with quite a lot of emphasis on the breadth requirements. Convincing them to provide a career-oriented track, especially one with an industry-designed curriculum might prove difficult.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

By interviewing employers in particular industries, we will determine necessary skills for potential employees. We will compare those skills with required classes for Bachelor's degrees in search of requirements that can be eliminated. We will also interview employees to determine which breadth requirements are necessary for producing graduates who are prepared. We will then interview high school students considering bachelor's degrees to determine if this new track appeals to them.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

The OpenIDEO community can help us develop and improve lists of skills needed for specific fields and determine the level of employers' interest in this new track for Bachelor's degrees. In addition, OpenIDEO users can provide feedback regarding the appeal of such a track to students. Would it influence students who are hesitant to attend school due to the high cost of tuition? The community could also help us by providing insights on how to convince universities to give it a try.

This idea emerged from

  • A student collaboration

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

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Photo of Preet Shah

HI everyone,
This idea seems good on paper but if we talk about the real world this idea might be difficult to apply. i have few things to talk: traditional education is being designed by highly qualified people so we are no one who ignore this study structure. The modern educational structure is not applicable for each and every field. We have fields like engineering, medicine and doctors where this modern educational structure is not applicable. what we can do is we can ask for companies for financial aid and scholarships.
Modern educational structure is applicable only for limited fields like events, cloud computing, hardware repairing, computer networkings and marketing. All these fields are based on practical knowledge. There should be universities or colleges who offers the shorter programs for these fields and also have the connection with professional world so that these students can get jobs.

Photo of Caitlin Sikora

Hi Preet,

Thanks for your comments. We agree that this idea does not apply well to all fields. In some fields, the traditional university goals of developing well-rounded thinkers are extremely relevant and complementary to students' goals. As you suggest, though, in a lot of more technical fields, students are more interested in developing skill sets that will serve as stepping stones to well-paid, fulfilling careers. In these fields, students often see general education requirements as a burden, distracting them from true interests and adding unnecessary weight to student debt.  

What we mean to suggest with this idea is that students who are not interested in overall, broad personal development should have another option that encompasses the same advantages of a traditional bachelor's degree without the excess. We are in conversation from leading employers across industries to develop sample curricula for these alternative bachelor's degrees. Obviously, implementing the idea would meet with resistance from Universities, but we suspect that more focused programs might produce more successful students in engineering, hard sciences, business, and computer science. This might allow top universities to attract students who would otherwise shy away from their price tag.

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