Fast-track degrees gain popularity at Binghamton University
As demand for master’s degrees rises, more and more students at Binghamton University, State University of New York, are looking for opportunities to earn graduate degrees quickly. The University offers a growing number of so called 3-2 programs, which allow focused students to complete a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in a total of five years.
Nancy Stamp, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, said it’s tough to track enrollment in these programs but she believes about 10 such degrees are awarded each year. She envisions that number rising to about 100 in the next five years.
“Increasingly across the country we’re going to see students and parents looking for these programs,” she said. “The master’s has become the degree to get.”
The 3-2 programs are ideal for students who enter college with substantial Advanced Placement credits and for those who are focused on their career path early on.
Students generally complete their baccalaureate during their third or fourth year and begin taking graduate level classes when they would have been considered seniors.
“We have such talented students here,” Stamp said. “We’re a natural for these programs.”
It’s a great financial solution for some students, Stamp said, because they pay undergraduate tuition for the first four years and then have to pay just one year of graduate tuition. The University also benefits from the higher state rate paid for graduate students and from increased enrollment.
Still, the 3-2 programs aren’t for everyone, Stamp notes. The compressed time frame does not allow much room for research work or electives outside the chosen field of study. And students must maintain a 3.0 GPA to prove they’re ready for graduate level work.
The two most popular of Binghamton’s 16 3-2 programs combine two engineering degrees, or an undergraduate engineering program with an MBA. A special program also allows an MBA to be combined with any Harpur College of Arts and Sciences major.
“The benefits I received from the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science/School of Management MBA fast-track program are a well balanced and affordable education with superior instruction, further insight into the business world, and learning how to make important management decisions,” said Michael Sigismondo, who received a bachelor’s in industrial and systems engineering in 2004 and an MBA in 2005.
Some students use the extra time in Binghamton to mature intellectually and socially, Stamp said. They’re already comfortable on campus and in the region, and this option is an appealing way to remain in that environment.
“It’s like a capstone of the whole experience of Binghamton for them,” Stamp said. “Many college graduates don’t have the communication skills they need or the teamwork skills employers demand. A year of graduate work can make a huge difference along those lines.”