COLUMN: Universities use general education requirements to financially exploit students

General education courses force students to waste money early in their education and misuse time on classes that do not pertain to their desired degree.

Chelsi Peter is a first-year journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about racial injustice and entertainment for the Maneater.

After decades, the complaints of taking boring and rigorous general education classes as a college student have no plan to end. Students are still required to earn credits for general education classes their college believes will help them succeed in their careers.

Many college students believe taking general education courses has no relevance to their major and feel like a waste of time. MU journalism majors have to take nine credits of math or science, three credits of a behavioral science class and three credits of a math and quantitative reasoning course. Why is it that students who are not interested in nor seeking a degree in math or science have to complete so many of these unnecessary credits?

MU’s General Education Program website states, “General education requirements are the foundation of knowledge upon which all University of Missouri degrees are built. They are specifically intended to prepare students as citizens who must make informed judgments about issues that go beyond the narrow area of their academic specialization.”

Who says that the classes intended to “go beyond the narrow area of a student’s academic specialization” are extremely important and necessary for a student to graduate? The courses that focus on a student’s major can help students make informed and proper decisions in the real world. In reality, general education courses feel like a restart of previous years by taking classes that have nothing to do with what students are interested in.

This poses a question: are colleges forcing general education requirements on students to keep them longer and make more money?

In 2018, a tweet from college student Sydney Davis went viral on Twitter, accumulating over 210,000 likes and over 70,000 retweets. It said, “Unpopular opinion: general education courses in college are a complete scam for your money to keep you paying for four plus years. If general education courses weren’t a requirement, majors really only require two years of classes. All of highschool was gen ed- it’s simply unnecessary.”

The Missouri School of Journalism requires students to have 120 credit hours and a minimum of a 3.0 GPA to graduate. Forty-four of those credits come from general education courses. This means over one-third of the classes journalism students take are general education classes.

If students didn’t take general education courses, they would not only graduate earlier but also save money. In the 2020-21 academic year, out-of-state students at MU pay $920 per credit hour. Journalism students are paying $40,498 in general education courses alone. Without these courses, MU will lose that much money per student. MU is financially exploiting students by making them take courses with material they may never use.

Colleges should put more effort into choosing which classes are requirements to graduating in a specific degree. Journalism students do not need to take so many lab sciences and math classes when most adults only use a basic level of algebra in their daily lives. In this day and age, we’re able to access the internet with dozens of devices. To look up the definition of something or an answer to a question, the help of cell phones, laptops, tablets and libraries make life easier.

Students should not be forced to put in the same dedication and effort into their general education classes and be expected to do the same in their upper-level, major-specific courses.

From kindergarten to senior year of high school, students have been taking different levels of math, reading, science and English. Those same classes that challenged us each year will be no different in college. The only difference is that if students don’t pass, it may damage their chance of graduating with that degree.

Attending college all together is an experience that only some are able to receive. College is already extremely unaffordable for many students; requiring general education courses only deepens financial burdens. Especially for students who do not receive the help of scholarships and financial aid, it makes it harder to access higher education.

The life lessons learned during college will not be through general education classes. The primary goal of college is to learn new skills, advance the ones you currently have and earn an education that will guide you to achieving your desired career. For example, Journalism majors at MU are required to take an economics course which will be extremely beneficial to them outside of college, though, the same argument cannot be made for the countless number of science courses required. Lengthy general education courses are a ploy for colleges to exploit students for their money and send them into debt with unnecessary coursework.

_The Marsha P. Johnson Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the rights and lives of Black trans people and providing relief for members of the community. We at The Maneater encourage you to donate to this cause. Donations can be made at: https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/NjY0OTc=_

Edited by Sofi Zeman and Sydney Lewis: szeman@themaneater.com

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