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Students might be able to get in and out of college faster and with potentially less student debt, thanks to a new project happening in southern Utah.

Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah Legislature approved and funded a three-year bachelor’s degree pilot program at Southern Utah University. The school received $3.8 million ongoing funding for the project and will be ready to launch the program in January 2020.

“The legislature has been working with our higher education institutions to find innovative ways to allow students the opportunity to finish their education in a more timely manner, thus allowing them to enter the workforce sooner,” said Rep. State Sen. Evan Vickers. “Southern Utah University's three-year bachelor degree program certainly fits that criteria. ... We are eagerly anticipating the outcome and success of this program and hope to be able to replicate it in other state institutions.”

The three-year degree is an optional program for students to accelerate the traditional undergraduate process and enter the workforce earlier, while still gaining the professional hands-on experiences needed for the job market. SUU administration, faculty and staff members are reviewing the current academic model and may make significant adjustments to ensure student success.

“SUU has earned a strong reputation in Utah for being an innovative university and has gained the trust of policymakers,” said SUU President Scott L Wyatt. “This initiative is a significant investment in SUU and our success in developing this program will benefit our students, community, and employees, and may pave the way for other schools to follow our lead.”

The three-year degree program will reduce barriers to graduation making it easier for a student to save time and money. If students choose to participate, they could have lower living expenses, greater work stability, smaller class sizes, and access to SUU’s summer community, including attending the Utah Shakespeare Festival, participating in the Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games, and exploring the various outdoor opportunities around SUU.

The Fall 2019 semester will remain on the same academic calendar as scheduled, but discussions are underway to make adjustments. Approximately half of SUU’s current degree programs will be available with a three-year option starting January 2020. Other degrees will become available in subsequent academic years.

Currently, scholarships at SUU cover four years. Scholarship language will be updated to say eight semesters instead, allowing students the flexibility to apply money to any semester in which they are enrolled. Pell grants are already available for three academic semesters each year, and qualifying students can also apply for state and federal aid to further reduce college expenses.

New structural changes will also include robust online offerings and summer classes, providing students with multiple opportunities to customize their degree to match their academic and career goals.

For more information, visit the SUU 3-Year Bachelor’s Degree website.