Confessions of a Community College Dean

The Onion did a piece a while back on Americans’ ’ mindset towards public transportation. As the piece had it, 98 percent of Americans prefer increased usage of public transportation by other individuals; that method, their own commutes wouldn’’ t be slowed by a lot traffic.


That ’ s sort of how Gen Ed reforms work. Departments regularly concur that the total requirement is too expensive, however then safeguard their own courses to the death. The issue is all of those _ other _ courses.

Of course, I’’ m presuming the reasonably basic ““ inspecting boxes in classifications” ” design of Gen Ed. In this design, trainees need to take a lot of credits in liberal arts, numerous in social sciences, numerous in mathematics, and so forth. A ““ directed paths ” method gets far more authoritative about which boxes to sign in each classification, however doesn’’ t address the presence of the classifications or boxes themselves. It may recommend a ‘‘ default ’ choice for a trainee who doesn ’ t understand which mathematics to take, however it wouldn ’ t address whether the trainee need to take mathematics at all.

I discuss this because of the IHE piece about Wichita State proposing to decrease its gen ed requirements from 42 to 36 credits. Obviously the relocation was triggered by a state law topping bachelor’’ s degrees at 120 credits, below 128. For programs that were currently at or near the old cap, coming down to the brand-new one needed either gutting program offerings or cutting gen ed.

It’’ s a familiar circumstance, since it’’ s playing out here, too. In 2015 New Jersey topped associate degrees at 60 credits, below 66, and bachelor’’ s at 120, below 128. The state left in location a minimum of 45 credits of gen ed for a partner of arts degree. When 45 out of 60 credits are promoted, programs get quite squeezed. We’’ re likewise looking at lowering the gen ed requirement to offer programs some breathing space.

Which is great, up until you begin calling names.

Enrollments drive resources, consisting of staffing. When registrations in an offered location take a sharp dip and remain there, that location begins to diminish. Preferably, shrinking by attrition suffices, however in some cases it takes something more direct than that. Getting ““ gen ed ” status for a course– or, preferably, “getting “ gen ed requirement ” status for a course– insulates it versus registration pressures. At the same time, removing gen ed status from a course– or benching it to a non-default choice within a classification– provides a financial risk to the afflicted department. Departments understand that.

In an ideal world, obviously, we’’d make curricular choices based exclusively on trainee requirements. Anybody who doesn’’ t see interest-group politics at play isn’’ t looking.

At the neighborhood college level, the concern is made complex by transfer factors to consider. Various four-year colleges desire various gen ed courses, therefore beating the most robust variation of an assisted path. Some locations have foreign language requirements; some put on’’ t. Some need world history, and others need United States history. Some have a freestanding ‘‘ variety ’ course requirement, and others permit one course to fill numerous classifications at the same time. Taken together, that indicates that we aren’’ t simply handling regional school choices. And even if we had arrangement amongst the state colleges, which we wear’’ t, we still couldn’’ t force arrangement amongst the personal ones. When a trainee asks ““ which history should I take?,” ” the response is frequently another concern: ““ where do you wish to move?” ”



If we might avoid the list design, it may be possible to have these discussions in a more efficient method. As long as requirements relate to credits, which then relate to tasks, the disputes of interest will continue. And four-year colleges have actually shown far more doubtful obviously that wear’’ t easily suit a list than they are of ones that do.

I put on’’ t understand yet if the Wichita State proposition will pass, or who drew the brief straw, however I’’ m impressed that it got this far. Informing somebody that their course is the _ other _ course is a hard sell. As long as we stick with the list design, the only method to reduce the list is to cross a couple of things off it.

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