Utah Board of Higher Education advances innovative three-year bachelor’s degree, first public system in nation

A graduate holds out their diploma

New shortened Bachelor of Applied Studies to be developed across USHE institutions.

At its meeting on March 21, the Utah Board of Higher Education approved a new degree category—Bachelor of Applied Studies—paving the way for Utah System of Higher Education institutions to explore new, innovative degree programs. This marks a significant advancement in higher education within the state, potentially providing students with additional degree options and faster pathways into careers.

The new bachelor’s degree would have a minimum of 90 credits required for students to complete, which differs from the current standard of 120 credits required for existing four-year bachelor’s degrees, representing an opportunity to graduate with a bachelor’s degree up to a year sooner. 

“This exciting change in policy opens the door to innovation on our campuses and allows each institution to develop proposals for three-year bachelor’s degree programs,” said Aaron Skonnard, Utah Board of Higher Education member. “We want to be at the forefront of new approaches in higher education that accelerate outcomes for students while better meeting the needs of our workforce.”

New programs within the Bachelor of Applied Studies category would require national accreditation and need to go through the program approval process with the Board of Higher Education to ensure programs are aligned with the established mission and roles for each USHE institution before being made available to students. Additionally, the areas of study for a Bachelor of Applied Studies degree would be limited in number and tied to specific industry needs. 

No matter the length of the program, the Board emphasized the necessity to ensure that certificates or degrees offered at USHE institutions meet the essential learning outcomes required, provide value for students and are recognized and accepted by employers.

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