Utah Public Colleges Implement Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree Programs

In the 2022-23 academic year, Utah’s public colleges and universities granted 19,219 bachelor’s degrees, a slight increase from the previous year by approximately 100 degrees. The Utah System of Higher Education aims to enhance student outcomes further by introducing a new initiative – enabling students to earn their bachelor’s degrees within three years instead of the traditional four.

Utah stands as the pioneer among public systems nationwide in sanctioning an accelerated path to graduation with the incorporation of a Bachelor of Applied Studies category. These novel programs will necessitate a minimum of 90 credits instead of the customary 120 credits.

“As Utah’s Board of Higher Education member, Aaron Skonnard, noted in a press release, ‘This policy shift sparks innovation on our campuses and empowers each institution to craft proposals for three-year bachelor’s degree programs.’ We strive to lead the charge in revolutionizing higher education methodologies to expedite student achievement and better align with workforce demands,” articulated Skonnard.

The newly established category by the Utah System of Higher Education mandates national accreditation and must receive approval from the state’s Board of Higher Education before implementation. Moreover, the areas of study will be circumscribed to meet specific industry requisites, as stated in the release.

Southern Utah University has already introduced a pathway to complete degrees in three years by enabling students to engage in summer sessions to hasten their academic progression.

Embracing the evolving student needs, Nikki Koontz, SUU’s spokesperson, remarked, “We are evaluating three potential new programs that are in harmony with this fresh paradigm shift. Our faculty members are rigorously finalizing these proposals through a curriculum review process, eagerly anticipating stakeholders’ feedback to ensure accreditation standards and federal financial aid eligibility.”

While the 90-credit programs are currently in the exploration phase and necessitate approval from various accrediting bodies, Bryan Magaña, representative of Weber State University, affirmed that most departments presently adhere to the 120-credit structure, with potential flexibility in the future.

“Offering a 90-credit bachelor’s degree is a testament to Weber State’s commitment to inclusive education,” highlighted Magaña. “We aim to pave the way for students to realize that higher education is within their reach. Several departments are contemplating the provision of 90-credit bachelor’s degrees to align with this vision.”

Approximately one-third of Weber State’s student body attains their bachelor’s degrees within three years by leveraging credits earned during high school or from associate’s degrees, Magaña elaborated.

At the time of reporting, queries to other public universities in Utah remained unanswered.

On a related note, private institutions such as BYU-Idaho and Ensign College, affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, unveiled a comparable three-year degree program that preserves core courses while eliminating electives. These offerings are accessible through the BYU-Pathway Worldwide program.

Utah’s groundbreaking initiative mirrors a broader trend in some U.S. colleges that are contemplating overhauling their curricula to expedite graduation times, as highlighted by Inside Higher Ed. Notable institutions exploring similar avenues include:

– American Public University System
– Indiana University of Pennsylvania
– Merrimack College
– New England College
– Northwood University
– Portland State University
– Slippery Rock University
– The University of Minnesota at Rochester
– The University of North Texas
– The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
– The University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh
– Utica College

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