When William Woods University went scouting for a few top women
students to pioneer a showcase academic program, a number of
would-be male applicants said they'd like a shot at it.
Sorry, guys. The university held fast to its 126-year tradition
as a women's school and let only females into its first group of
Century Scholars - students on a fast track to get their bachelor's
degrees in three jam-packed years.
But the men had planted the kernel of an idea that got a lot of
discussion this past year. A few weeks ago, without fanfare, the
university decided to open all its programs to men and women.
Coeducation comes to campus in the fall of 1997.
Meanwhile this fall, the Century Scholars have come, 10
handpicked young women clear-sighted and determined about their
educations and careers and urgent to get on with both.
Jamie Huffman of Rogers, Ark., aims to follow up a degree in
psychology with a law degree and to go to work for the FBI, doing
personality profiles of hard-core criminals such as serial killers.
"I've been interested in this since I was little," she says.
Getting her bachelor's in three years means "a year earlier that I
will actually start doing what I want to do."
For Emily Fletcher, a biology major from Marshall, Mo., an und
ergraduate year saved means getting out of medical school at age 25
instead of 26.
Others among the group are just as firm in their plans for
futures in business, teaching and journalism and as impatient to
get there without wasting time.
Time is money, of course, and the Century Scholars save that,
too, although most mention the financial advantage only as an
afterthought. Because the university lowers fees for summer school
and has pledged this group academic scholarships averaging $8,626 a
year, these students will get their degrees for less than half list
The university figures they'll pay about $32,400 in tuition,
room and board at this year's prices. By the same measure, their
four-year, full-price classmates will ante up $67,400. And like all
students, Century Scholars showing financial need can shave their
costs still more.
But when it comes to effort, the Century Scholars' degrees
won't come cheap. The university has laid out a relentless
schedule, including two full summers, for the group. In addition to
all the credits for their various majors, each scholar must:
Meet regularly with a staff member to custom design a fitting
program of outside-of-class activities. As much as grades, each
student's extracurricular record will be part of her transcript.
Spend six weeks in the first summer living in and learning
about another culture. Options include study at Nagoya Women's
University in Nagoya, Japan, or Espiritu Santo University in
Guayaquil, Ecuador, or with the Loyal Shawnee people of eastern
Spend part of the second summer in independent study, possibly
a research project with a faculty member or an internship.
No problem, says Fletcher: "I've had summers off for the last
12 years." Nor are these students having second thoughts about
giving up one of those undergraduate years, often called the best
of a young person's life.
Huffman, for instance, says she'll make up for that by living
her three years here "to the fullest."
It Starts At The Top
Of course, nothing stops most college students from graduating
in three years if they wish. …