Harvard University will conduct a comprehensive study on the effects of changing Harvard's A. B. program from four to three years, Dean May announced yesterday.
The year-long study-sponsored in part by a $25,000 grant from the Esso Education Foundation-will try to assess the academic, social and psychological gains and losses that could result from such a change. The study will comprise extensive interviewing and polling of students, faculty and alumni.
"To my knowledge, there has been no comprehensive assembly of data for and against reducing the normal A. B. program to three years," May said in an announcement describing the study.
"There is sentiment from students, faculty members, overseers and a recent Carnegie Commission report in favor of a three year norm," he added, foreseeing the possibility of Harvard accepting the three year program if "the weight of the information is in that direction."
May said last night that the Carnogie Report on Higher Education, released last November, helped spark interest in the study although he added that the idea of a three-year A. B. had been discussed in last year's meeting of the Overseers' Committee to Visit Harvard College.
The Carnegie Commission-which includes President Pusey and David Riesman '31, Ford Professor of Social Science-had proposed a shorter A. B. program for "more effective utilization" both of the time a person devotes to education and of the limited resources of financially hard-pressed schools.
Two students on the Harvard Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) also issued a report at the same time supporting a three year A. B. program.
Both reports stated that with about20 per cent of the students in the College leaving a year earlier than they usually do, the three year program will make more rooms and financial aid available for women and other under-represented groups in the student body.
May and Dean C. Whitla, director of the study and of Harvard's Office of Tests, however, were concerned about the effects of the three year program on "the socio-economic mix of the College and Harvard's willingness to take admissions risks."
Whitla said that with the three year program, the "admission committee might be less likely to gamble on students from disadvantaged backgrounds" who would be forced to "do four years of work in three years."
"If a student has A. P. training," Whitla added, "the three year degree makes sense, But this is dependent on where you go to school and such a program would not do justice to those students who have not had much educational opportunity."
The Harvard study-to begin in July-will recognize that the length of time for undergraduate study will continue to vary between four and three years as it presently does and that in some cases the period may be merged with graduate or professional education.