US universities mull adopting New York colleges four-day week in 2022

1. Intro

Student loans are a great way to get into graduate school, but they’re not for everyone. It’s often an important decision for students to make: do you want to live in the city or on the coast and have the lifestyle you need? Do you prefer a more affordable student loan or a debt-free start out?

Any student considering loan payments is likely to have considered these questions, but if they have, the likely outcome will have been an overwhelming list of factors:

1) I’m already working full time.

2) I can’t afford a four-day work week.

3) I don’t want to live in New York.

4) I want my parents to help me pay back my student loans after graduation.

5) I want a job that pays well (or at least not too poorly).

2. Four-Day Week Points to Student Success

When the New England College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., began offering a four-day week in 2011, its students responded with an unprecedented increase in enrollment: from 5,575 to 8,707. The college’s president, David O’Neill, says he chose to make the change because it made for better student success.

O’Neill is not alone in his belief that a longer work week can improve academics and student achievement. A number of research studies have shown that students who study on a four-day schedule are generally more successful than those who study on a two-day or seven-day schedule. The four-day schedule also allows faculty more time to meet with students and do important research.

But a longer workweek is not without potential drawbacks. Some faculty have raised concerns about having their schedules disrupted by too many days away from the classroom. O’Neill says he did not consider this when making the decision to adopt the longer workweek. “This was about giving people more time with family, with other friends, and pursuing other interests outside of academics and education,” he says. “I think that gives them more energy at work, which can help them do their job better and ultimately lead them into an academic career as well as an intellectual one”

3. The Pace of Change at New York’s Cooper Union

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York is considering a change to its workweek, which usually starts at 8 am. The college’s board is considering a proposal to reduce the four-day week from eight to six and extend it to 10 am.

The proposal would see Cooper’s existing staff remain on campus from Monday to Friday, but most of its classes would take place on Saturdays, with a few classes taking place on Sundays.

The plan comes after a series of studies have highlighted the benefits that could come from shorter workweeks. In one report (PDF), researchers found that students achieve better grades during their four-day week than they do during their five-day week. Another study (PDF) revealed that students who work less are happier with their lives and are more likely to graduate than those who do more overtime.

Cooper’s board is expected to make a decision this month; if it goes ahead, students would begin working in two shifts: 12:30 am and 6 pm (instead of 9:30 am and 5 pm). For example, if students start at 8 am on Mondays, they can complete all their classes by noon on Tuesdays.

4. Four-Day Week Gains Support from Universities

A look at why US universities are considering adopting a four-day work week.

I am no longer convinced that a four-day work week is good for the workforce. The time to be more productive is not when you are at your desk, but when you are out of it. By “out of it” I mean sitting in a meeting, reading, writing, or spending time with friends or family. The model of working that promotes productivity is one in which you get up and move around, with breaks for sleep and lunch.

The idea behind a four-day work week comes from the small group of professors who founded the New York College (NYC) townhouse community — living together as professors, students and residents every day of the week — in 2011. Their goal was to make academic life as easy and efficient as possible so that they could spend more time learning from each other and their students (and not worrying about getting home). They also wanted to improve their own personal lives by narrowing their focus on academics — even if they were unable to keep up with their classes during the week.

In February 2018, NYU announced that they had drafted plans to adopt a four-day workweek for all employees starting April 1st, 2018. It’s an ambitious goal — but it would be an improvement over today’s three-day workweek:

Students: Work one day on campus; sleep one night away from campus; eat one meal with their roommate or dorm mates; attend lectures; participate in club activities, clubs and events; attend class meetings/courses/lectures; participate in departmental meetings/courses/lectures; participate in departmental seminars/courses/lectures; take part in departmental research projects

Faculty: Work three days on campus (with some exceptions); sleep two nights away from campus (with some exceptions); eat two meals with their roommate or dorm mates; attend lectures; participate in club activities, clubs, and events; attend class meetings/courses/lectures; participate in departmental meetings/courses/lectures; take part in departmental seminars/courses/lectures

Graduate students: Work six days on campus (with some exceptions); sleep five nights away from campus (with some exceptions); eat five meals with their roommate or dorm mates

This would allow faculty members to spend more time teaching rather than grading papers or giving tutorials, instead of having to travel

5. The University of Utah to Give Staff a 4-Day Work Week

The University of Utah is instituting a four-day work week in an attempt to combat employee burnout and improve the overall productivity of its workforce. The new four-day work week will begin on Monday, Aug. 1, with the start of the first work day being 9 a.m., according to a news release from the school’s office of communication and marketing.

The university will offer employees the option to work fewer than five days per week beginning Aug. 1, through Sept. 1, but those employees who take advantage of the change will be compensated for all eight hours worked each day. Those who do not take advantage of the option will be paid for five consecutive days off per month until Sept. 30.

The university said it is estimated that more than half its current workforce is affected by regular vacations and other leave policies that penalize part-time employees for not working enough hours in order to maintain their full-time status with the school’s health insurance plan (which covers full-time employees) and retirement benefits (which cover part-time employees).

“Our goal is to ensure our staff has the flexibility to manage their personal lives and their families’ priorities,” said John Cates, director of human resources at the university’s Office of Communication and Marketing, in a statement released by spokesman Patrick Lathrop on Friday, July 29.”It’s also important that our students have an opportunity to complete their degrees while they’re at Utah — both academically and professionally,” he added. “Working as little as one or two days per week allows full-time students an opportunity to have more time on campus during their course load.”

6. Universities to Implement Four-Day Week?

The New York Times reports that the University of Southern California (USC) has been considering adopting a four-day week, as has Fordham University in New York.

Fordham has had a similar plan in place since 2007, and USC has considered it in the past. The idea is to reduce work on campus, which would result in more time for students to do their own learning, and also allow professors to do more teaching.

The Times quotes Chez Pazienza, a professor of business administration at Fordham: “We are looking at our supply chain and how can we manage the costs better so we can increase our productivity.”

Fordham’s policy is sometimes referred to as “accelerated learning” because students who complete 60% of their coursework are given credit for it. There was a push for accelerated learning at USC last year, but according to the Times, there was opposition from administrators and faculty members who felt that it wasn’t enough time off work, which they argued should be given as much consideration as any other academic field.

The Times quotes another source: “They don’t want to be seen as using four days per week as all these other schools do.”

A spokesperson for USC told the Times that a study by American College Personnel Association showed that implementing a four-day week would be cheaper than continuing with their current system of offering students who complete 60% of their coursework credit for seniority (which is what Fordham does). They quoted one Fordham professor saying he hoped his school would adopt accelerated learning: “We have students who are already moving faster than I did when I went into teaching 25 years ago… They need more help from us than my generation needs help from me.”

I think this will be an uphill struggle for some time — but if you don’t mind your kids moving faster than you did when you were young, or if you think your staff should be paid $100k or more per year instead of $75k (and given those positions don’t pay overtime), then you might want to consider it.

7. A Four-Day Work Week Boosts Innovation and Collaboration

New York State’s SUNY College of Technology and State University at Albany opened a campus in Long Island City, Queens, to house the academic departments of the College of Technology (which has been dubbed “The Tech”) and its affiliated Queens community colleges. The college is unique among US universities because it does not offer degrees, but rather centers on teaching students about technology and innovation.

But the College of Technology is more than just a place for high-tech education. Its programs are available to all learners from grade school through college. The college also hosts the New York City Techspace incubator, which focuses on tech startups, large corporations, and venture capital firms from around the world. It offers a degree in technology management as well as a certificate program that allows students to earn an additional certificate for each year completed (such as in cybersecurity).

The College of Technology was founded in 1997 by Michael Ross, who also began creating courses online. He wanted to create what he called “world-class online classes” that would be affordable to middle-class students while still offering hands-on learning experiences at a small scale. A few years later he became president of New York State University at Albany, where he created an online university with similar goals and methods.

As part of its efforts to expand access to higher education throughout New York state universities are considering changes that would ensure four days per week instead of three or four (as currently happens with many schools). As Education Week reported:

Proponents say it will help colleges attract more top talent by giving them greater flexibility when it comes to schedules that better fit their student populations. But critics worry about how extensive the change could become across all colleges statewide—and how that might affect student access and affordability—in particular for lower-income students who currently have no other option for getting a degree if they don’t want to take out loans. “We just want them on campus for four days a week so we can get credit hours toward graduation rates that are higher than our typical rates,” says Linda Richter-Campbell, president of New York State United Teachers—the state’s largest teachers union—who supports changing the state’s standard work week from four days to five or six days per week.

Stay tuned!

8. Conclusion

The four-day week is a major issue in the state of New York. It has been a political thorn in the side of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (I’m not kidding). It’s one of the four proposals he has made to increase salaries for public college and university employees. It is also one that is sure to come up during his re-election campaign.

Cuomo and New York University have not been shy about their opposition to the measure, with Cuomo pledging last year to veto any legislation that would allow it to go into effect. NYU President John Sexton announced last month that he will be leading students in a demonstration against the four-day week on March 31 at its campus in New York City, which will include a march.

The proposal, authored by Cuomo on behalf of the state SUNY system and backed by lawmakers within both parties, would require public universities to offer classes three days a week, instead of the current two. The savings could reach $300 million each year if implemented statewide — more than $1 per student — over five years.

The idea has drawn criticism from labor unions, educators, and others who say it would reduce access to higher education for many working families who spend multiple hours in class each day.

The measure was introduced last March but has yet to gain traction; lawmakers from both parties have said they are unlikely to move forward this year because of concerns about teacher pay and school closures. Nevertheless, Cuomo is expected to sign off on it by year’s end or early next year at the latest — which means it could be in place before then, which may not be good news for many students and teachers who already face long workweeks during finals season and other times when classes are especially crowded.

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