Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Making an American Undergraduate (bachelor’s) education come true – Part 2

The American Undergraduate Degrees and how they are different from the Indian Bachelor’s Degree

In India, a student usually enters a college or university after Plus Two, enrolling into a specific degree with a major, selected at the time of applying to the school. In the three or four years of the bachelor’s degree program, the student takes a predetermined series of courses in a predetermined order. In other words, the student’s college coursework and route to graduation is charted out very clearly at the time of entering the program. At the end of three or four years, the student gets a B.A., B.Sc., B.E., B.Tech., or B.Arch degree.

The American undergraduate program on the other hand is extremely flexible, and can be completed in three to seven years (or more), with the student taking as many courses as they can afford to pay for, in the areas that interest them. Students do not have to declare a major until they have completed two years of college, or some level of basic coursework. The average American undergraduate degree program takes four years, and the student completes around 120 credits of study in subjects that include General Education, Core Requirements, and Free Electives.
Interestingly, a lot of American students do not complete all of their undergraduate coursework at the same institution. They do the courses in multiple institutions. The choice of these institutions is determined by factors like cost, proximity to home town, choice of courses offered, and the ease of getting into the institution. The varieties of institutions that offer college level courses are community colleges, four-year colleges, private and public universities. Community colleges are two year public institutions that offer Associate Degrees. Four year colleges give the two year Associate and the four year Bachelor’s Degrees. Universities can offer the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral programs and degrees.
This movement from institution to institution is possible because of a concept called “College Credit Transfer”. Any student who applies to a US university will see the following options listed in the choice of programs – First Year student, Transfer Student. This is because a lot of students find it more convenient to study closer to home at a Community College or a 4-year College, and then transfer for the final two years to a four-year College or to a university.

 (See this section on Wikipedia for a concise description of how college transfers work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_transfer).
Two year degrees come in a variety of flavors: Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Sciences, and very specific two year degrees that train for a specific career or vocation. The two-year Associate of Arts degree is awarded after two years and sixty credits of course work. The course work can be targeted towards a specific major such as sociology or economics, or it can be in General Studies. The course work can be transferred to another institution for a higher level degree, if that institution accepts the level of the coursework.
So while getting an Associate degree, a student who aims for higher education should be smart enough to target the requirements of the next level of study while choosing the coursework for the Associate degree. The structure of the Associate degree starts with the next degree, the Bachelor’s degree, and the major that the student is interested in. This will help the student work backwards and structure the Associate degree to fulfill the requirements of the bachelor’s degree. Knowing which university the student wants to go to makes this process easier, as the student can then tailor the associate degree according to the university’s requirements.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Making an American Undergraduate (bachelor’s) education come true – Part1

An American four-year Bachelor’s degree (undergraduate degree as it is called) is a great educational experience. It combines unique campus experience and quality of teaching found only in US universities. It has content and style.

Indian parents recognize the American bachelor’s degree to have value, but not many families send their children to the USA for a bachelor’s degree. The reasons for this are many:
- A bachelor’s degree in the USA is quite expensive, and not many can afford four years of tuition and hostel expenses
- Parents are not comfortable sending eighteen year old students just out of high school so far away
- Parents may not feel that children are mature enough to handle the transition
- Children may not feel capable of going away from familiar surroundings just yet
- Children may feel doubts about their ability to handle American style teaching, and cope with the cultural changes at the same time

Recognizing these misgivings, many American universities are now entering into collaborations with Indian institutions where students can do two years in India, and then complete the remaining two years in the USA. This collaboration comes mainly in two flavors:
- the 2+2 program where the student gets an Associate degree at the end of the first two years, and then transfers to ANY American university of choice
- the twinning program where the student completes two years in India, and transfers to the specific university with which their institution has a collaboration

The primary differences between these two types of collaborations are:
- at the end of the 2+2 program the student gets a Associate degree; at the end of two years of the twinning program, there is no degree awarded. The degree is awarded only after four years.
- in the 2+2 program, the student can transfer to any American university for which they fulfill the transfer criteria; in the twinning program, the American university is pre-determined

This 2+2 structure is possible because of the nature of the American bachelor’s degree program. Every undergraduate program in the USA requires the student to complete a given number of credits in General Education which covers English Language, Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences and Quantitative techniques. This is regardless of whether the major is arts, science, business or engineering.

The split program described above allows the student to complete the General Education requirements in India, in a homely atmosphere, with the support of family, and at less expense, and then transfer to an American university for their education in America to complete the major requirements. It allows the student to get familiar with American style curriculum and teaching. It helps the student to do independent research and team collaborations, which are important in an American curriculum. It helps the student handle any weaknesses the student might have in math or sciences or any other subject, here in India, before moving to the USA.

Doing part of the degree in India reduces the cost for families and makes it possible for more students to get an American bachelor’s degree. The tuition cost in the 2+2 program can get reduced by 50% depending on the program and facilities offered.

The 2+2 program enables the students to get American style education, here in India, and facilitates a transfer in the third year, when the student is older, and presumably more mature and capable of being away from home. This program helps students realize their dream of an undergraduate American education

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to save a sinking ship

I was seeing the news about the sinking cruise ship off the shores of Italy and it suddently struck me that this whole episode can teach us lessons on how to handle the sinking European economy.

When the ship got hit on one side and water entered, the ship tipped to that side and started sinking. The other side of the ship lifted up because that side became lighter. There was not enough weight on the other side to lift up the side which had the hole.

Currently with the European countries hit by heavy debt, it is like the side of the ship that has the hole. If we are to prevent the global crisis, then we need to put enough weight on the Asian side of the globe so that we lift up the European side of the ship that is sinking. However, what is happening is that, in fear, investors are pulling out of Asia; this is equivalent to what happened to the ship - the other side lifts up and gets dragged down.

Asian Government have a responsibility not only to their countries but to save the global ship that is sinking. They need to invest heavily in their countries - Government spending has to go up, consumption should be encouraged, and private investment should be encouraged and made easier not only for local investors but also for foreign investors. They should do so by closing the shutters on that side of the ship that has the potential to drag the good side of the ship. This means that Asian Governments should ensure that the contagion that is sinking the European side does not spread to Asia.

India has a tremendous opportunity now to show economic leadership.

Sankaran Raghunathan
Dean of
National Management B School, India