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I have been in higher education as a professor for >30 yrs and with two teenagers prepping for college, I am an observer from both sides. Even though I consider myself relatively well paid (upper middle class), my main concern regarding college/university for my children is cost, cost, and cost. I believe that a number of colleges/univ. will be appropriate for my children, as the higher education experience is largely what the student makes of it, providing the necessary resources are available. As someone from a lower middle class family, I benefited greatly from financial aid that will likely not be available to my children.

An option -- rather drastic considering the logistics, but hugely beneficial financially to the student's family -- is to offer a 3 yr BS degree with minimal "liberal education" requirements: 1) no language requirement (think Rosetta Stone); 2) baseline humanities/social sciences requirements. For example, given a 24 course curriculum, a chemistry major would take, say: 7 chem lecture courses, 3 full lab courses, 5 humanities/social science courses with mandatory courses in economics, sociology, and communications, 3-4 courses in math, 2-3 in physics, 2-3 in biology and 2 semesters of mandatory research. Naturally, an MIT student is likely to take a few more courses along the way, perhaps some at the grad level, but this is a reasonable baseline. There might be discreet options for those intending to focus on specific chemistry disciplines, etc.

Given the cost, and incredible amount of information available at the flick of a mouse, the eight additional courses of a standard 4 yr undergraduate education start looking way to costly. Just look at the current number of students graduating in 3.5 yrs; is there experience any less, especially if that final semester is replace with one of real world experience (i.e., a job, volunteering, adventure....).

Education & Facilities, Academic year


Why not "be bold"?

Why not "be bold"?

While it certainly seems like trying to "do more with less" is a valid method to try to control costs, it also feels a bit like accepting defeat on the question of actually controlling the costs. There's also the question of whether cutting the content would dilute the value (perceived or real) of that BS degree, or remove flexibility from the program (eg if a student needs to shift focus partway through). Would all BS programs now be 3 years, or would there be a BS and a "BS lite" (or maybe an AA) degree? It's true that lots of good info is available online now, but access to info is hardly the same thing as proficiency with it. (As an educator, I'd assume it's very clear in your students' work when someone knows a topic well versus some superficial lookups in Google or Wikipedia.)

The design of the Institute curriculum as it pertains to its value proposition is certainly fair game to think about. But if we're brainstorming "big ideas", why not address the elephant in the room and deal directly with the cost of an MIT education rather than tiptoeing around it? https://future.mit.edu/graduate-all-students-debt-free