Too minor to matter
For quite some time there has been a debate over UALR’s core curriculum playing out on Facfocus with a great deal of complexity about the requirement of a minor and the possibility of lowering the general education requirements.
In the summer of 2010, after the self-study process the university completed for the North Central Association of colleges and schools accreditation, an eight-member task force assembled to ensure that students are getting the lifelong benefits intended by the university’s list of competencies and then to design the core requirements to be settled on.
Some say that the requirement of a minor leaves too little room for electives or courses for interest’s sake or that requiring a minor is a tool to get more money out of students. Others say that having a minor makes for a well-rounded education. Professor of Developmental Psychology Roger Webb said on Facfocus that having a minor makes UALR look “low rent.”
A minor requirement is sometimes counterproductive. Although sites like Monster.com say that a minor can be a tiebreaker when it comes to employment, when a student starts into a minor discipline it may take two semesters to realize that he or she doesn’t enjoy it and then have to change minors this can occur quite a few times. These kinds of requirements can also trap students into a particular discipline that is not well suited for them due to time and money already invested. If the minor is recommended or encouraged, but not required it would allow students to explore various interests and even create new interests, leading to a broader education.
The state minimum general education core requirement is 35 hours; UALR requires 44. UALR peer schools such as Georgia State University and University of Missouri- St. Louis require 42 general hours. UALR requires 124 hours to graduate with a baccalaureate degree whereas peer schools such as GSU, UMSL and University of Massachusetts – Boston all require 120 hours. With a class load of 15 hours per semester a 120-hour requirement can be achieved in four academic years. Is there some study that says that UALR students need more hours of education? Why not go ahead and lower the required hours by four?
The faculty senate and the task force have a difficult job ahead. The various disciplines must come to some consensus.
Members of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville voted to change the college’s 66-hour core requirement to the state’s minimum 35 hours. Program majors at UA will have the option to require some of the courses lost in the core such as foreign language. While some UA faculty worried that the overall experience won’t be as well rounded of an education others maintained that the majors offered can be deepened and broadened according to the October 15, 2010 University of Arkansas Newswire.
Before a joint session of the State House and Senate in January, Gov. Mike Beebe called for doubling the states college graduates by 2025. With the increase in students going for their master’s degrees for a leg-up in his/her chosen discipline, why not go ahead and cut a few hours and the requirement of a minor? This strategy may serve to encourage students to narrow their specialization in their chosen field of study and stay in school to achieve a master’s degree.