The looming specters of debt and the difficulty of finding a job can be thoroughly potent in dissuading students from committing even more money and time to a graduate degree. While these are harsh realities that most students face in their postgraduate lives, they should not be automatic deterrents from the further pursuit of academic passion. One solution is programs that give students more flexibility in the paths they can take toward obtaining a graduate degree, which is why Georgetown’s addition of a combined bachelor of arts and master of arts in democracy and governance makes especially good sense.
The recent addition of this accelerated BA/MA degree is an example of how universities can encourage students who are unsure how graduate studies might fit with their life and career goals. The School of Foreign Service offers 12 accelerated BA/MA degree options in seven different departments, but still lags behind the College, which offers BA/MA degree programs in the English, art history, history, mathematics and select foreign language departments.
By double-counting certain classes and allowing undergraduates to take graduate-level courses in their senior year, a master’s degree can be earned through these programs with just one year of graduate study. The academic benefits of graduate programs are self-evident, but the ability to eliminate a year of higher education and the associated costs removes one more daunting obstacle to postgraduate degrees.
Accessibility in higher education has long been, and will continue to be, a pressing issue in the academic community. While considerable progress has been made in undergraduate education, the availability of financial aid for graduate students is not nearly as strong. If being saddled with student debt is inevitable, the draw of master’s programs — especially as compared to their J.D. and M.D. counterparts — is left only to decline, despite the added career opportunities that these graduate degrees often provide.
As a service to Georgetown undergraduates and a testament to Georgetown’s commitment to making higher education more accessible, the addition of more five-year programs is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.