Three-year degree programs are an attractive option to cost-conscious families, yet students should be aware that not all of these accelerated programs may work as advertised.
At least 32 colleges currently offer students the opportunity to wrap up their degrees in three years. That number is growing as families grapple with the rising cost of higher education.
Obtaining a bachelor's degree sooner than the usual amount of time can slice tuition and fees by 25 percent, according to the Progressive Policy Institute.
The savings are significant, considering that the average sticker price for tuition, fees, and room and board during the 2017-2018 school year was $20,770 for public colleges and $46,950 at private schools, according to the College Board.
The problem is that students can expect to hit speed bumps along the way to their accelerated degree — and many of those obstacles are imposed by the schools themselves.
"Schools are forcing four years into three," said Paul Weinstein Jr., a senior fellow of the Progressive Policy Institute. He covered the shortcomings of existing three-year programs in a recent paper.
Colleges aren't always clear in communicating what students need to do in order to successfully finish their degrees in less time, Weinstein said.
"Some provide guidance on their policy for accelerated programs, while others say you can do it in three years if you come with advanced-placement credits and the program is slapped together," he said.
Here's what you need to know before your child attempts a three-year degree program.