Gen Eds shouldn’t be required

Focus on interests


Nina Walat

By Gabby Campos, Collegian Contributor

College students seem to have mixed opinions on the general education courses that most colleges require you to take in order to graduate. Whatever the consensus may be, my opinion is that they are a waste of time and money.

In every general education lecture I’ve been in, I’ve witnessed at least two people spend the entirety of class watching some Netflix show like “Friends” on their MacBook Pros, eyes glued to their screens and minds likely solely focused on the question of whether or not Ross and Rachel would ever get back together after their infamous season three breakup.

That being said, I have seen students who try. You know, those students who color-code all their notes and listen attentively to every word the professor is saying for all 50 or 75 minutes of class.

The reality is, though, many students don’t care. In one of the general education courses I’m taking, all you will see if you take a peek into the lecture room is several students doing anything but pay attention. Having a full-on text conversation with their friends, eating a snack while staring at the ceiling and daydreaming…the list goes on.

It can be argued that the writing requirements are important because writing is a necessary skill used among people of all careers and backgrounds. To this point, I agree. I think every college should require a couple of writing courses.

But as a journalism student, I shouldn’t have to dedicate a semester or two to re-learning pre-calculus and geometry. I shouldn’t have to take astronomy or microbiology – two classes I took my freshman year only to forget everything I learned a week later. And when am I ever going to need to know that Hugues Capet was the founder of the Capetian dynasty?

General education requirements force students who have no interest in the topic they are learning about to memorize facts and equations when they could be spending that time learning about something that they genuinely want to learn. They could even use that time to work a paying job or do work for an on-campus club they’re a member of. Balancing school, a job and a club makes a person more well-rounded to me than a person taking four different subject matters.

Every undergrad needs to fulfill about 39 credits of gen-eds before graduation. I took 36 credits worth of classes my freshman year, meaning that general education courses typically make up an entire year of college.

Sure, not everyone knows what they want to do by the time they get to college. Maybe some students like the idea of general education because it makes them feel comfortable in classes everybody is taking and they are guaranteed to graduate on time with their peers. And while it’s nobody’s fault for not knowing what they want to do with the rest of their lives, I still believe it should be their responsibility and in their own self-interest to catch up – just as it is somebody’s responsibility to catch up after taking a gap year or a semester off. Without these requirements, students could graduate a year early and the process of finding employment would be sped up.

It makes sense to require science, math, English and history for three to four years of a student’s high school career. High school is a period of life in which people might start to discover their true passions. Advanced Placement courses also exist to challenge students who may have doubts about whether they are fit for taking a certain subject to the college or career level.

It’s also important to note that public high school – which most students attend – is free. I can admit that I wasn’t incredibly ecstatic when I learned that entering high school, I would have to take four years of math in order to receive my diploma. But at the end of the day, it didn’t cost me much financially.

If college were, at the very least, more affordable, it wouldn’t be as significant of an issue. Since our current tuition and fees are $16,389 (in-state, not including room and board) students spend that much just to take general education courses. Spending that money and time should be up to the student – not the school.

Gabby Campos is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]