TIME Education

Drinking on Campus: University of Kentucky Relaxes Its Alcohol Policy

University of Kentucky fans celebrate on State Street after their team's come from behind victory over the University of Louisville to advance to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 28, 2014.
University of Kentucky fans celebrate on State Street after their team's come from behind victory over the University of Louisville to advance to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 28, 2014. David Stephenson—Zuma

University of Kentucky officials are drawing up new rules to allow students to drink on campus, as part of an effort to rein in off-campus drinking after a series of student riots. The move is a recognition that the school's dry campus policy isn't working

As the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team marched its way through the NCAA basketball tournament this year, UK students routinely poured into the streets, setting couches on fire and uprooting street signs. Much of it took place off-campus, where students often drink thanks to the university’s dry campus policy.

But on Thursday, UK President Eli Capilouto announced the university would change that policy, in part because of events like the off-campus riots, and allow alcohol to be served on campus under “predetermined guidelines” and conditions.

The move is a recognition that the university’s policy wasn’t restricting alcohol consumption. It merely moved it farther from campus, causing headaches for families living in those areas and pushing students further from the oversight of university officials.

“Off-campus drinking is a major problem at major universities,” says East Carolina University’s Jennifer Cremeens, who studies campus alcohol policies. “And I think many of them are moving to a harm-reduction policy, finding ways to monitor and control students’ drinking rather than trying to stop it altogether.”

Dry campus policies took hold around the U.S. a few decades ago as universities wanted to show that they were providing a healthy environment for their students. Historically, student unions often included bars for those over 21, but many colleges closed them down as officials cracked down on consumption, often believing those policies could influence students’ drinking behavior.

The problem was that students merely got drunk off campus at nearby bars or inside private residences. In a way, the policy backfired, and some universities appear to be changing tactics.

While there’s no single database of how many universities allow alcohol on campus, Cremeens published a study last year in the American Journal of Health Studies finding that 24% of schools surveyed prohibited all possession of alcohol on campus compared with 32% in 2005.

Stuart Usdan, a co-author of the survey, says that when bars were on campus, university officials could oversee the establishment and make sure it didn’t promote outrageous drink specials that could lead to binge drinking.

“The thought was that you could monitor this, that it was a more controlled environment,” Usdan says. “So allowing more drinking on campus may be a way for universities to regain some of that control.”

The university has yet to say under what guidelines drinking will be allowed, but the hope is that the shift will help prevent situations like the off-campus riots this year and especially the ones back in 2012 when UK’s men’s basketball team won the NCAA championship. The off-campus ruckus lead to multiple arrests and property damage.

“This might give off a negative impression that they’re being too care-free about this, but off-campus drinking is a much bigger problem,” Usdan says. “By bringing it on campus, they may be able to minimize some of the problems.”

TIME Education

Obama Thinks He Can Rate Colleges. Can You Do Better? (Interactive)

See how colleges stack up based on what you think is most important in a school

Last year, the Obama Administration announced a plan to assess schools on how well they serve their students, based on metrics like graduation rate, tuition, and the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants, the federally funded scholarships for low-income families. For a system that has yet to be put in place, the White House’s college ratings have created a great deal of panic.

To see how those ratings might play out, TIME gathered data for 2,500 college and universities and ranked them according to the proposed metrics. But we’ve left it to you to adjust how important each of those metrics should be. Adjust the sliders, and watch the the schools reshuffle.

As Haley Sweetland Edwards notes in the most recent issue of TIME, many college presidents are convinced that the ratings proposed by the Obama administration would fail to capture the value of their schools. The White House insists that far too many sub-par schools are cashing in on federal student loans and leaving their students in the lurch.

The White House is proposing to take a bunch a date of data about schools and determine a rank for each. This would produce an algorithm that functions in many ways like Google’s ranking of Web pages. In the case of search engines, the exact nature of this algorithm is a secret. The White House’s algorithm will presumably not be secret, meaning it will be quite easy for schools to game the system.

That sounds like a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be. When algorithms work well, they reward good behavior. In the same way that the Google algorithm rewards sites that offer clear descriptions of the content and coherent navigation, a good college ranking algorithm could inspire schools to offer better grants to those who can’t afford the tuition and provide help for those at risk of dropping out. A poorly designed algorithm, meanwhile, could incentivize them to shut out students who have lower statistical odds of graduating.

The interactive at the top of this article presents a simplified rating system based on three qualities the White House has mentioned: Graduation rate, accessibility and affordability. For accessibility, the interactive uses the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants. For affordability, we’ve used the net cost paid by families who makes less than $110,000 a year and receive some form of aid.

By rewarding both accessibility and graduation rate, this system corners one of the trickiest problems facing schools looking to climb the rankings: Students from low-income backgrounds are statistically less likely to graduate. The most expedient way for a school to boost its graduate rate would be not to admit students in this cohort. Doing so, however, would theoretically hurt the school in the accessibility category more than it boosted the school in the graduation category, resulting in a drop in the ratings. At least, this is how a good White House algorithm would work. Fine-tuning the formula to work as advertised would require a sophisticated statistical analysis of the data. In the meantime, you can drag the sliders around to see which schools would rise to the top given existing numbers.

Methodology

All data comes from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Each school is evaluated according to its six-year graduation rate, the percentage of full-time, first-time undergraduates receiving Pell grants and the net cost for students receiving any form of aid whose families make less than $110,000 a year. That figure is calculated by TIME as the weighted average net cost for students in each of the Department of Education’s reported income brackets. Where that data is not available, overall net cost (tuition and fees minus grants and scholarships) is used.

These three data points are standardized, so that each school’s score is the number of standard deviations above or below the mean. The app then adjusts these values according to the position of the sliders, sums the square roots of those values, and takes the square of the sum. (A detailed discussion of that method is available here.)

The classifications of schools come from the Carnegie classification system. Schools without a Carnegie class are not included.

Update, May 6, 2014: Several more schools were added to the dataset.

TIME viral

Wheel of Fortune Contestant Mispronounces ‘Achilles,’ Misses Chance at Million Dollar Prize

He also invents a new word: "dicespin"

A contestant named Julian kept getting very close to winning big on Friday’s episode of Wheel of Fortune -- but then he just kept messing up big.

First, the University of Indiana freshman lost his chance to play for $1 million when he bungled the answer “Mythological Hero Achilles.” All the letters were turned over, so it seemed like he had this one in the bag. But when he went to solve the puzzle, he pronounced Achilles like “A-chill-us.”

The three seconds of deafening silence that followed were heartbreaking. Eventually Pat let Julian know that they couldn’t accept that, and the next contestant eagerly swooped in.

Unfortunately, Julian makes a few more blunders as the episode rolls on. For example, he guesses “on-the-spot dicespin” (what?) instead of “on-the-spot decision,” again allowing the contestant to his left to swoop in once more.

Looks like we now know what Julian’s Achilles’ heel is.

TIME Education

It Doesn’t Matter Where You Go to College

Students walk across the campus of Columbia University in New York City
Students walk across the campus of Columbia University in New York City Daniel Barry—Bloomberg / Getty Images

It just matters that you go.

This month, high school seniors across America are receiving college decision letters of acceptance and rejection. Many of these students, and their parents, think that where they go to college will significantly affect their employment future.

They think wrong. Today, whether you go to college retains some importance in your employment options. But where you go to college is of almost no importance. Whether your degree, for example, is from UCLA or from less prestigious Sonoma State matters far less than your academic performance and the skills you can show employers.

Research on the impact of college selection has focused on comparing the earnings of graduates of different colleges. In 1999, economists Alan Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale published a widely read study that compared the earnings of graduates of elite colleges with those of “moderately selective” schools. The latter group was composed of people who had been admitted to an elite college but chose to attend another school.

The economists found that the earnings of the two groups 20 years after graduation differed little or not at all. A larger follow-up study, released in 2011 and covering 19,000 college graduates, reached a similar conclusion: whether you went to Penn or Penn State, Williams College or Miami University of Ohio, job outcomes were unaffected in terms of earnings.

Earnings are only part of the employment picture. Other measures, like job satisfaction and social value, are more difficult to quantify. In a thoughtful 2004 essay, the writer Gregg Easterbrook interviewed college officials throughout the country to assess these impacts. His conclusion: on a range of measures of job satisfaction, attendance at an elite college had little impact.

Forty years ago, elite colleges offered a demonstrably higher level of education. Today, as many as 200 colleges across the U.S. offer a similar level of education and have excellent faculty and facilities.

The minor role that a job candidate’s college plays in hiring becomes even clearer when you talk to California workforce professionals. Kris Stadelman, director of the NOVA Workforce Investment Board in Silicon Valley, is a leader in understanding how hiring criteria changed in California. “Employers are interested in what skills you bring and how these skills can be used in their business,” she says. In one study, NOVA interviewed tech employers and learned that mastery of current technologies is the most critical factor in their hiring decisions. Few employers even mentioned college degrees as a factor. ”Especially in the tech industry, employers want to see skills applications rather than traditional resumes. Show, don’t tell,” says Stadelman.

Over the past three years, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regional commissioner Richard Holden and I have been researching hiring processes and criteria. We’ve found that this emphasis on skills extends beyond tech to other major employment sectors, including business services, financial services, health care and hospitality. Employers seek people with skills that apply to the particular job—and who have the ability to solve problems and work in a team.

As a volunteer job coach, I encourage every young adult who is at all interested to attend college. Unless the family has a financial need, there is no reason for a young person to rush into the workforce—especially since our work lives now last an estimated 40 years.

I also say: If you have the good fortune to choose among colleges, it is worth taking the process seriously. Obtain as much information as possible to evaluate the location, size and educational specialties of every school. But remember: the particular college degree will be of little consequence, especially after you’ve been in the labor force for more than a few years.

What’s most important is what you will do, at college and in life, to keep improving your skills, to develop your character, to remain persistent. You’ll also need some mazel.

That’s Yiddish for luck.

Bernick is the former director of the California labor department, the Employment Development Department, and has been involved in job training and placement since 1979. He currently is a Milken Institute Fellow and Zocalo contributing editor. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

TIME

Geoffrey Canada and the New Harlem Renaissance

When Geoffrey Canada founded the Harlem Children’s Zone 17 years ago, it was a one-block pilot program of wrap-around services for school children in Harlem. Today it covers 100 city blocks and serves thousands, providing everything from great education to early-childhood programs. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote for the TIME 100 in 2011 that Canada “has shown time and again that education is the surest path out of poverty.

TIME Education

How To Help Low-Income Parents Talk To Their Kids About College

How to pay for college was the top concern for most parents.

A follow up on yesterday’s post on the Brilliant Blog about first generation college students: In newly-presented research, education professor Ronald Hallett shares what he discovered through designing and implementing a program intended to encourage high school students who would be the first in their families to attend university.

Hallett, of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., designed the five-week summer program for underserved and underperforming Stockton students in partnership with local school district administrators. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, said that one of the keys to the success of the program was empowering parents who hadn’t gone to college themselves to talk to their sons and daughters about the importance of higher education. As described on the website ScienceDaily:

“Students attended three-hour sessions three days a week, exploring college websites, visiting college campuses and learning about college entrance requirements. The program also included family information meetings and gave parents weekly themed activity packets to help them lead conversations about preparing for college. At the end of each conversation, parents and students together drafted specific goals. The goals were incorporated into a family action plan at the end of the program.”

Hallett used the program, called Creating Opportunities Via Education, as a laboratory for testing and refining approaches to empower parents to guide their kids on the path to college. Among the lessons learned:

• How to pay for college was the top concern for most parents.
• Parents were reluctant to encourage their children to pursue a goal that might be unattainable; they first needed assurance that college could be financially feasible.
• Large group presentations overwhelmed parents. Individualized attention and guidance better satisfied the complex information needs of low-income families.
•Parents preferred hard-copy written information to emails and blogs, and felt more empowered when information was delivered directly to them rather than sent home via students.
• Parents were more engaged when they helped their student write a college action plan versus reviewing one developed by the student.
•When given effective tools to help underserved and underperforming students prepare for college, parents use them.

“There is a common perception that low-income parents don’t care about college, but it’s not true,” says Hallett. “The parents we worked with really wanted to be engaged in their kids’ educational pursuits.”

Annie Murphy Paul is the author of the forthcoming book Brilliant: The Science of How We Get Smarter. Read more at her blog, where this post first appeared.

TIME Education

Commencement Speeches Are for Suckers

Chuck Hagel Delivers Commencement Address At West Point
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addresses the United States Military Academy at West Point during the 215 commencement ceremony May 25, 2013 in West Point, New York. Ramin Talaie—Getty Images

Students want rap stars. Parents want astronauts. Donors want publicity. What’s a college president to do?

College presidents — and I was one for 22 years — have few more thankless jobs than procuring (and that’s the right word) commencement speakers.

The expectation of graduates and their families is that a big-time speaker will be there to put the cherry on top of the sundae that was their college experience (and all those tuition dollars). So expectations are high. The ideal commencement speaker is a household name, has landed on the moon, won a Nobel Prize and a few NBA championships, was on the cover of last week’s People magazine … and will bring front-page publicity to the school (like George Marshall’s announcement of the Marshall Plan at Harvard’s 1947 commencement), forever glorifying their graduation day.

This is a fantasy, and the commencement speaker may be a tradition that long ago outlived its usefulness. But the college president, sharing the platform with the speaker, has no choice but to be personally involved. Few mistakes on his or her watch will be more visible, or more challenging to avoid, than the wrong commencement speaker.

Start with the constituents. At many schools, the students are polled every year on their preferred list of speakers. The ones you’ve heard of (probably less than half, e.g., the rap artists) either carry a speaker’s bureau charge of $25,000 to $100,000— or will cost you even more in the support you lose from your biggest donors. And, anyway, you have no money to pay for a commencement speaker. “The honor of the occasion, receiving an honorary degree, it should be enough.” Right! That may work in the Ivy League and at flagship state universities, but not at 3,400 other institutions across the country.

You ask the faculty for their nominations and suggestions. Such input, after all, is a political necessity. But year after year the wish list is a round-up-the-usual-suspects roster of politically correct feminists and black activists and obscure scholars of whom none of the graduates has ever heard. And, not incidentally, these idealists often expect big fees as well (“For you, I’ll discount it to $20,000.”).

You can sometimes get elected and other public officials to speak without payment, but in a politically polarized world, they come at a different kind of cost. You can go for conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, but there aren’t enough Chuck Hagels to go around.

(And, by the way, your chances of getting even a mention in the local news media, let alone the annual New York Times full-page article on the year’s best commencement speeches, are next to none. They have their own round-up-the-usual-suspects list.)

Throughout the selection process you must never forget your bosses — the trustees, who are also your biggest contributors — who must must sit through the entire commencement ceremony and, unlike the graduates, may actually listen to the speech. They’re sophisticated people, but you do not want to subject them to a 30-minute harangue.

So how do you find someone well-known (if not famous) whom you don’t have to pay, who will say something meaningful (if not memorable) but won’t get anyone angry, whom very different constituencies will applaud and see as a vindication of the university’s prestige … even while the school down the road just spent $100,000 to get Colin Powell!

In 22 years as a procurer of commencement speakers at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, these were my strategies:

1) Use every single one of your personal and family connections. Both my doctoral thesis advisor and my son’s undergraduate thesis advisor (James Q. Wilson and Henry Louis Gates) were commencement speakers at North Central College during my presidency, as were the “dean of the Washington, D.C. press corps” (David Broder), a friend of my son-in-law’s family, and my son’s old boss at the Children’s Defense Fund (Marian Wright Edelman).

2) Exploit the institutional connection in any way you can. The best commencement speech I ever heard was by a North Central graduate’s husband: Joseph Hartzler, the prosecutor of the Oklahoma City bomber. The speaker at my last commencement was the head of the Peace Corps, Aaron Williams; he accepted our invitation as a favor to an alumna who worked as his deputy.

3) Be the first to ask them, so they still consider it an honor and aren’t blasé about it. This helped me secure the journalist Robin Wright at my first commencement in 1991; Lonnie Bunch, just after he was named head of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History; and Christian Wiman, the editor of Poetry magazine during its 100th anniversary year.

4) Make it easy and fun. A number of out-of-the-box choices were locals to whom we could offer door-to-door service: Mary Schmich, whose faux commencement speech, entitled “Wear Sunscreen,” became a classic, and Marv Levy, a liberal arts Phi Beta Kappa who became a Hall of Fame football coach.

Did I ever write a speech for a speaker? I cannot tell a lie. A couple times they would not have come if I hadn’t. Did I ever find myself without a speaker with just a few weeks to go? Of course. I won’t tell who, but some of my last-minute gets were outstanding.

Any advice for potential speakers? Don’t do it unless you have something to say, and you can say it in under 15 minutes without quoting de Tocqueville. But don’t turn it down if it’s the first time. You may never get another chance.

Harvard University recently announced that multibillionaire and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will be speaking as part of this year’s festivities. The custom of a commencement speaker is nearly as old as Harvard. Although a few schools have traditions that avoid the hassles and controversies — e.g., only the president or a revered faculty member addresses the graduates — I doubt the commencement speaker will be phased out soon at most institutions.

Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg — “the world will little note nor long remember what we say here” — describe the reality of 99 percent of commencement speeches, as well as the two-hour oration by the principal speaker that day in 1863, Harvard president Edward Everett. But we’re all suckers in hoping that this commencement will be different, and what is said will live forever.

Harold R. Wilde was president of North Central College from 1991 through 2012.

TIME Business of Sports

Sports TV Broadcasting Hits New Highs … in Annoying Fans

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Jetta Productions—Getty Images

Lately, many sports fans who have tried to watch the Winter Olympics, or NCAA Final Four basketball, or the Atlanta Braves, or the Los Angeles Dodgers have been frustrated for a very basic reason.

They can’t find the !?#&*!? sporting event on TV.

On Saturday night, countless college basketball fans tuned in to CBS, hoping to watch the men’s Final Four March Madness tournament matchups of Wisconsin-vs.-Kentucky and Florida-vs.-Connecticut. Instead of basketball, viewers were treated to reruns of CBS dramas “Person of Interest” and “Criminal Minds.”

After some confusion, and perhaps some cursing and throwing of remotes, shoes, and cheese dip, previously unaware viewers discovered that for the first time since March Madness has been televised, the national semifinals weren’t shown on network TV. The back-to-back games, played on what’s often thought of the best night of the year for college basketball, were only broadcast on cable. On several cable channels, in fact, thanks to a curious arrangement with Turner Sports, in which TBS hosted the main broadcast, and sister channels TNT and TruTV showed the same game but with different local play-by-play announcers to cater to each team’s fan base.

In any event, the games weren’t on network TV. That was enough to ruin the night for cord cutters, i.e., folks who don’t have pay TV, who have also missed out on the tournament’s many other games shown only on TBS, TNT, or TruTV rather than CBS.

(MORE: Why Las Vegas Loves March Madness Way More Than the Super Bowl)

The arrangement did more than alienate the fairly sizeable portion of fans too cheap to have a pay TV package. Despite an onslaught of coverage telling folks that they games were on cable for the first time ever— according to Adweek, the campaign included digital billboards in subways, ads shown before films in theaters, promos on radio and TV, and a takeover of USAToday.com’s home page—the move to cable did some serious damage to TV ratings as well. Yes, when combined the trio of Turner Sports channels achieved a record high number of viewers for a non-football sporting event on cable, but the shift away from network broadcast also resulted in a multi-year low in ratings overall. The Associated Press reported that an average of 14 million viewers watched the games on Saturday night, down 11% from a year ago when they were shown on CBS. (TBS is in 14% fewer American homes than CBS.)

There’s no mystery as to why any of the parties involved would risk aggravating fans by showing the games on cable rather than CBS: Like so many things, it’s all about money.

CBS and Turner Sports are a few years into a 14-year, $10.8 billion partnership with the NCAA to air the March Madness tournament. One reason that TBS and its siblings agreed to the deal—thereby helping CBS from losing the tournament to ESPN and ABC—is that they were guaranteed the right to air some of the tournament’s premier high-ratings games, rather than just the earlier rounds.

More importantly, these networks, and the powers than be in general in sports and TV, are well aware that live sports is the largest reason many Americans continue to cut a check for a monthly pay TV bill. Time Warner, which owns TBS, TNT, TruTV, CNN, and many other cable networks (and, for a little while longer, Time Inc. and Time.com), obviously has great interest in keeping levels of cable-paying households high. They want cord cutting to hurt, or at least be difficult and impractical for sports fans to circumvent, and moving the Final Four to cable does just that.

(MORE: YouTube Is Going to Use TV to Destroy TV)

The Final Four broadcast is hardly the only example of how larger battles over money and TV rights are frustrating the lives and viewing habits of sports fans—perhaps turning some into former fans in the process. Four years ago, NBC Universal angered hockey fans and the hockey world in general by its decision to air some premier Olympic hockey games on cable rather than the main network. Likewise, fans were only able to view many events from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi by watching them on cable (or streaming them online, only possible with a pay TV account). Of course, Comcast, the biggest player in pay TV, owns NBC Universal, so it makes a lot of sense to strategically broadcast in-demand sporting events in ways that push people to feel the monthly cable bill is still unavoidable, if not exactly well worth the money.

At 162 regular season games plus playoffs, Major League Baseball plays the most games of any pro sport, and therefore it has the most games aired on TV. But thanks to a trend kicked off largely by the advent of the Yankees-focused YES Network more than ten years ago, fans are increasingly likely to be forced to jump through hoops, or at least cough up extra cash, in order to tune in. For instance, an ongoing dispute between Fox Sports and Dish TV in Atlanta will result in some Braves fans being unable to watch nearly one-third of the team’s games this season.

Over in southern California, a huge brawl over Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasts pits the Dodgers-owed SportsNET LA network and its distributor, Time Warner Cable, on one side, and on the other, a range of pay TV providers such as Cox, Charter, and DirecTV, which so far are refusing to pay the high fees being demanded to include the channel in customer packages. Caught in the middle, of course, are the many fans who use other TV providers, and who often don’t live in areas where they could get SportsNET LA even if they wanted to pay for it.

(MORE: Hank Aaron Would Have Faced More Racism Today)

The result is an absurd scenario epitomized by a recent column from the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, who on Dodgers opening day hit a handful of bars, as well as a taco shop, bowling alley, and a Burger King, trying—and failing—to find the game on TV. The deal the Dodgers cut for the rights to broadcast games is incredibly lucrative for the club. But as Plaschke warned the Dodgers, the money may come at the cost of quite a few fans. “Dodgers, ask your fans if they are willing to sacrifice watching the games on television for the sake of having the league’s richest team,” he wrote. “They would say no.”

Plaschke ran into one sports bar patron, who noted the irony of seeing Dodgers jerseys posted to the tavern’s wall and yet “they can’t even get the games,” he said. “At least everyone can still watch the Angels.”

For the time being anyway.

TIME Higher Education

Here’s How Many Students Could Save $50,000 on College—But Aren’t

The cost of not getting a college degree is rising, new study finds
The cost of not getting a college degree is rising, new study finds Getty Images

More colleges are allowing students to finish up their four-year degrees in just three years. But only a tiny percentage of students are taking advantage.

In 2012, Wesleyan University, an elite private college in Connecticut, became the highest-profile institution to actively promote an accelerated degree program, in which students could finish up college and get out into the “real world” after as little as three years of higher education. At the time, Wesleyan president Michael S. Roth wrote a guest op-ed for the Washington Post explaining that years prior, he had graduated from Wesleyan in three years, and he felt the benefits of such an option were enormous—among other things, he saved his family around $6,000, which was the cost of a year’s tuition when he was a student in the 1970s.

Because of a pricing model he described as “unsustainable,” Roth wrote that Wesleyan would immediately spread the word that the school’s current students could likewise finish up in three years, if they wanted:

The three-year option isn’t for everyone, but for those students who are prepared to develop their majors a little sooner, shorten their vacations by participating in summer sessions, and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities on campus, this more economical BA might be of genuine interest. In our case, allowing for some summer expenses, families would still save about 20 percent from the total bill for an undergraduate degree. At many private schools that would be around $50,000!

(MORE: After PBR: Will the Next Great Hipster Beer Please Stand Up?)

Over the weekend, the Boston Globe published a story about three-year degree options at Wesleyan and other schools. Roth is still a big fan of the idea, agreeing with the words of a previous Wesleyan president, who told students, “If you look back at your years at Wesleyan and say those were the best four years of your life, we failed you.”

Roth told the Globe that students who are ready to move on after three years of college should do so. “You shouldn’t stay here because this is your time to screw around and have a great time and then it’s going to be bad,” he said. “These should be the years that launch you into the world in a better way.”

The idea makes sense to many students who are seeking the most bang for their buck, and who are terrified with taking on crippling levels of college loans. So it’s understandable that the concept of a three-year degree is increasingly mentioned as a money-saving tactic for college students and their families. And yet very few students are actually graduating three years after starting college.

The Globe pointed to a Wesleyan dean’s estimate, forecasting that only a half-dozen or so of its students will earn their degrees via the three-year route next spring. Why so few? And why aren’t more students around the country jumping on what appears to be a quick, straightforward strategy for trimming college costs?

First off, it’s not necessarily easy to compile enough credits to graduate in three years. For majors such as nursing and engineering, which typically require extensive labs or clinical hours, earning a degree in three years is virtually impossible and often isn’t even allowed. Degrees in seemingly less intensive majors sometimes can’t be earned in three years either. “In majors like the performing arts, those skills can’t be rushed into a three-year format,” said a dean at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, explaining why it wasn’t possible for students in that major to finish in three years, per a Bankrate.com post on the pros and cons of accelerated programs.

(MORE: Student Loans Are Ruining Your Life. Now They’re Ruining the Economy Too)

Generally speaking, students in other majors must use AP credits earned in high school, and/or take summer sessions, and/or sign up for classes above and beyond the usual semester’s workload to try to finish up in three years. Not all students are up for the challenge. Heck, nationwide, less than half of students are able to earn enough credits to graduate in four years, let alone three.

What’s more, the majority of American colleges simply do not offer students the opportunity to graduate in three years. According to data cited in the Globe story, since 2009 only 19 private, nonprofit colleges have introduced three-year degree programs. More colleges are expected to get on board with the concept in the future, but the institutional embrace of the three-year degree will proceed slowly, and may not ever happen on a widespread level for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it obviously trims tuition and fees collected by colleges.

Colleges say that students should be extremely cautious in their pursuit of an accelerated degree. By speeding along through college, students increase the chances that they could pick the wrong major because they’re so hell-bent on graduating. They could also be shortchanged, the argument goes, on developing all-important life skills students are supposed to hone in college, such as critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving.

Certainly, another factor holding back the three-year degree from becoming a larger trend is some level of disinterest among students. Not all that many students are eager to kill themselves by overloading on courses each semester. They may rather prefer to squeeze every moment of fun they can out of college—to, in fact, “screw around and have a great time” with their friends, as Wesleyan’s Roth put it. Making oneself miserable by rushing through college makes particularly little sense when you’ll graduate into a fairly lackluster jobs market.

(MORE: Student Loans Are Becoming a Drag on the U.S. Economy)

Perhaps most telling, by some account students’ parents, rather than students themselves, seem more interested in the idea of saving money via a three-year degree. “I’ve had parents ask me about the three-year degree with the sort of energy that sometimes the students don’t possess themselves,” Mary Coleman, a dean at Lesley University, in Cambridge, Mass., said to the Globe.

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