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Utah students could get a bachelor's degree in just 3 years

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Alex Gonzalez

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(Utah News Connection) A new degree program could grant students across the Utah System of Higher Education a bachelor's degree in just three years.

Geoffrey Landward, commissioner of higher education with the Utah System of Higher Education, recently approved a new degree category called the Bachelor of Applied Studies. It would have a minimum of 90 credits for students to complete which would differ from the current standard of 120 credits.

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"That saves a student a full-year of tuition, but it also puts them in the workforce a full year earlier. So that is a double benefit. They're saving money on the degree side, but they're also earning more money now that they have a degree and they're in the workforce," he said.

Landward added areas of study within the new category would be limited and tied to specific industry needs and occupations, but would also require national accreditation and need approval by the state's board of higher ed before being made available. He said that Southern Utah University already has a three-year degree program which lets students complete three semesters of school per year, rather than completing the traditional two.

Landward said they've asked schools across the state to think about what industries they would like to see more degrees in and adds that this provides institutions with a creative opportunity to work with industry partners to ensure students who potentially could earn three-year degrees are valued and what Landward calls "hire-able."

To make this happen, Landward said they'll be identifying what he terms "core competencies," while scrutinizing elective requirements.

"Do we really need all of these electives? And if not for this particular occupation, can we streamline that degree? And it may not be just three years, it may be three and a half years for example. We're not set on just one number, but the idea is let's see if we can finish this degree in under four years," he explained.

He said there will likely be challenges, and though these programs aren't available yet, he added he's excited for what this could mean for students accessing higher education in the Beehive State.