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EDITORIAL: Colleges must provide more course flexibility

Students exploited by core curriculum, lack of choice

One of the key provisions in a market economy is the consumer’s agency to pick and choose what they spend their money on. 

For example, if you enter your supermarket of choice to buy chicken, pork or beef, you will be able to buy exactly what you want.

What if, when you went to buy beef, the cashier forced you to buy hamburger patties with it? That would be ridiculous, and you would leave and take your business elsewhere.

While beef and hamburger patties may be related in a very loose sense — and while some buyers may purchase them together — the expectation remains that consumers have the ability to be selective over what they spend their money on. Juxtaposing that example to the modern college brings a few things into question.

If one desires a degree in electrical engineering, they should be able to decide that they will solely spend their money on courses that guide them to the skills necessary to succeed in that field. There is no reason to bog them down with unrelated classes. 

This applies for all degrees. The humanities majors should not have to waste their time and money taking calculus, and the nursing majors should not have to waste their time taking history courses. 

Despite the simple logic behind these points, most schools — including Rutgers University — force students to complete a “core” requirement of classes unrelated to their pursuant field.

A few valid arguments arise in favor of the core requirements. First and foremost, it can be argued that unrelated courses are necessary to build well-rounded individuals. 

While that may be true, public education ideally creates well-rounded citizens itself. We often forget that college is not compulsory. The public education system funded by our collective taxes builds well-rounded individuals on its own, given students take their schooling as seriously as they should. 

Additionally, as consumers of a service, we should not be allowed to be told exactly what we want nor need. Certainly, an option to take courses unrelated to the desired major should be available, but not required. There is no legitimate reason for writing to pose itself as a requirement for the physics major.

Furthering that point, most students do not exactly put their best foot forward in these superfluous classes. They view it as an aggravating speed bump on the road to their degree, one that they simply want to pass and finish rather than legitimately and tenaciously learn with the passion and focus required to succeed at a college level. 

Colleges will always have handy reasoning available to explain away these core requirements. 

For example, Rutgers’ explanation goes as follows: “The Core Curriculum of the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) establishes common goals that, along with a major and minor specialization, prepare Arts and Sciences graduates for successful lives and careers built on a critical understanding of the natural environment, human behavior and the individual’s role in diverse societies. Conversant with multiple intellectual traditions, modes of analysis and schools of thought, and armed with well-developed communication and reasoning skills, the school’s graduates are prepared to meet any challenge.”

Rutgers, as well as many other schools that follow similar protocols, routinely make the dangerously simplified assumption that college is a mere bridge to a career. This is not true for all who attend. Some students actually go to college to simply expand their knowledge. It is hard for many college students to believe that, but that is the truth. 

A degree in engineering is purported as a document verifying an individual's proficiency in engineering. In order to attain that document, there should be no requirement other than passing engineering related courses.

This question must now be directed at the institutions imputing these often arbitrary requirements: Why? 

The supermarket example comes back into play. Should that situation ever arise, where a clerk is forcing you to buy an additional product, it would seem obvious why they are doing it: to put your wallet on a diet. 

For instance, the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences core typically consists of 10 to 14 total courses, which are usually 3 to 4 credits each. Simple math shows that the average Rutgers student will spend 30 to 56 credit hours on these courses. 

Looking only at raw tuition costs — which, needless to say, only makes up a relatively small portion of student expenses — those hours will cost up to $21,448 for in-state students, and a whopping $51,240 for out-of-state. Millions of dollars are pumped into the University’s vaults from classes that are unnecessary, and that students are apathetic about anyway.

Additionally, the core requirements at Rutgers are extremely regimented, forcing students to take obscure classes that otherwise would not receive any traffic. These classes, and the money the school devotes to them, are extraneous. Without the monopolistic rules that colleges run under, they would be discarded by simple, indiscriminate market forces. 

Overall, it is important to send a reminder to colleges that we are the customer, and that they should treat us like so. If they refuse to allow us to pinpoint our studies, we must refuse to give them our hard-earned money.



The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority   of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters  do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or  its staff

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