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The Podium

A bachelor’s degree in three years, and targeting the ‘Johns’

For many, entrance to college, once a near-guaranteed ticket to upward social mobility and elite career opportunities, has become a pathway to prolonged financial distress. A typical 2010 college graduate collected a diploma alongside more than $25,000 in debt and entered one of the most dismal job markets in recent history.

As college administrators, we’re not blind to the crisis of higher education costs. That’s why a number of higher learning institutions are experimenting with programs that will alleviate some of these concerns while still providing a degree that allows recipients to achieve professional-level competency. For example, Wesleyan University and Mary Baldwin College have pioneered programs that condense the traditional four-year bachelor’s degree into three years, but still require 120 credits. Elsewhere, schools are attempting massively open online courses, competency-based education programs, and the growth of sub-baccalaureate certificates to emphasize what students learn rather than how they learn it.

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While such intentions are admirable, squeezing four years of credits into three and taking classes with thousands of students does not work for everyone. At the same time, recent budget cuts for community colleges have made shorter and less expensive higher education alternatives increasingly rare. These difficulties, combined with the past decade’s new, advanced instructional technologies, make this an ideal time to look at new forms of credentialing in an evolutionary manner.

A solution to this problem is to offer not a compressed degree, but a three-year bachelor’s degree that requires only 90 credits to graduate. These programs can focus on the essentials to achieve competency in a specific discipline and can offer a streamlined program of general studies as a complement. Assessments during and after college, including professional certifications, can assure students’ competency, validate their education, and give them the opportunity to begin graduate degree programs if they desire.

A three-year degree would eliminate 25 percent of all tuition, book, and living costs associated with four years of college. Combined with the extra year of salary and career advancement, such savings are even greater. Unfortunately, this practice is as logical as it is rare. Not only would this benefit thousands of students, it could also be a boon for community colleges. These institutions often struggle as policy prohibits them from giving students bachelor’s degrees. Three-year bachelor’s degrees would attract a new student population to community colleges and incentivize local governments to provide them additional funding.

Howard E. Horton

New England College of Business and Finance

Buy a body: Get caught, but get off. That’s been the norm, but not anymore. The Boston Police Department participated in a multi-day operation targeting sex buyers — so-called “johns.” The stings were part of the fifth National Day of Johns Arrests: an effort spearheaded by Cook County, Ill., sheriff’s office that brought together more than 20 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies around the country and resulted in the arrest of 1,147 sex buyers — including 55 men in Boston.

In addition to the Boston operation, Massachusetts has a strong human trafficking law, in effect since last February, that sets a minimum fine of $1,000 (and up to $5,000) for buying sex from an adult.

Buying sex and getting away with it? Not anymore. Thank you to the Boston Police Department and the many leaders in our state and city governments for holding buyers accountable.

Ayanna Pressley

Boston City Councilor

Lina Nealon

Demand Abolition

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