Today I had the opportunity to hear Vice President Joe Biden speak at FSU about college affordability. I was so impressed by the passion that he showed about wanting to ensure that college was affordable for all who wished to be educated.
Among the many initiatives that he spoke about, the three year plan was floated as an option. I was reminded of the following post that I wrote not long after the Washington Post published an article about the “surprising” fact that three year college careers were not catching on. Here are my original words, published here for your perusal:

I read this article this afternoon, and had a great many things to say on it. Ordinarily, these sorts of things are what I post in my statuses or on my wall. But, to quote Jerri Blank of “Strangers with Candy”, ::Storms into room, likely knocking something over:: I’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY!

The premise of this article, for those who don’t want to read the whole thing, discusses the largely failed attempts of colleges to successfully launch and sustain three year degree programs. While the benefit is having to spend less time in college, a financial pro, students are finding that they want to enjoy their college experience longer and opt to stay the extra amount of time.

I have a good amount to say on this, as someone who opted to spend only three years in college. Sometimes I joke and tell people that I entered student affairs as a means to make up for that lost year. While that’s not entirely true, I think that there is something to be said for taking your time in college.

I am, as the article alludes to, a student who benefited from entering college with close to a year done already. Through AP and IB credits, I was essentially a sophomore when I started as a communications major at URI in 2004. As my course sequence progressed, I started to realize that I was running out of classes to take. I picked up minors in business and film, but still realized that I could finish in 2007, rather than the 2008 that my email address denoted. I had a friend tell me for the full extra year that my email address was wrong, but I wasn’t too worried about that. With a sister ready to enter college, it made sense for me to take the extra year and go home.

However, the article ends roughly where this story has, up to this point: with the job search. Either because of disillusionment in my job prospects, or because of my age (I was only 20 when I left school), I struggled to find a job. And while we’d love to believe that age isn’t as ripe a parameter for judgment as other more publicized means of discrimination, I feel that being done with college didn’t always overcome the perceived lack of experience that came with a younger age. Looking several years younger than THAT didn’t help.

Eventually, I rebounded (an internship with the City of Clearwater and a workforce development certificate led to a job in student activities, and the rest is history!), but the fact of the matter is, there was a struggle as the result of a three year path through college. I know of others who have taken this route that had similar experiences. So for those considering either side of the argument, know that I wouldn’t change the experience that I’ve had (well, maybe that long stretch without a job- love where I landed, but the stress took a toll!).

But I would exercise caution when mulling the prospect of shortening the career. I absolutely love all the friends that I met while at URI, the ones that I went through orientation with and lived with. And in ending my academic career prematurely, I also cut short my time with those friends to move the 1500 miles back home. My academics and my friends are of equal importance to me, and choosing between them was a very very difficult decision. I’m a tremendous proponent of making informed decisions, and this is something that deserves more information.

Okay, speech over. As you were.

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