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Radomski discusses viability of three-year degree pathways at UW-Madison

March 08, 2017

Noel Radomski, managing director of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE), was quoted in a Daily Cardinal article discussing the requirement in Gov. Scott Walker’s 2017-’19 budget proposal that UW System schools establish pathways to three-year degrees for many programs.

The proposal would mandate three-year degree options for 10 percent of programs by Jan​uary 1, 2018, and 60 percent of programs by June 2020.

Radomski questioned the proposal’s viability at UW-Madison, saying, “Engineering, math, computer science, biology, chemistry, physics and other degrees cannot be completed in three years.”

“It goes to the quality of the degree program, the accreditation requirements, what employers want from those graduates,” he continued. “Also, students who get their degrees in the STEM fields will often go on to get their Masters or PhDs. They have to get a high quality bachelor’s to do that.”

“Additionally,” Radomski explained, “the budget does not say whether the three-year plans will decrease the number of required credit hours -- they may just encourage enrollment in summer courses to get students through the system faster.”

“Across the Big Ten, three-year degree programs are relatively uncommon,” the article explains. Usually, these programs are designed for students who come to the university “with specific goals, have already earned some college credit, or are ready to complete more courses per term than average.”  

Radomski said this puts students from rural or low-income schools at a disadvantage, as they are less likely to offer courses for college credit in high school.

Radomski noted that the three-year degree likely won’t change things at UW-Madison, and that many students will still use four years to complete a degree. “It’s a four-year institution that caters to 18-22 year olds,” he said. “They will change their minds and want the four years to spend in things like marching band. It’s a time of maturing.”

WISCAPE is housed in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) within UW-Madison's School of Education.

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