Editorial: Institutions should diversify general education requirements

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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People often consider a bachelor’s degree as necessary to a student’s career — a stepping stone for future success and career paths. Through the past five decades, however, the degrees students have obtained have become increasingly polarized: Students are specializing, studying in particular subject areas for postgraduate plans. General education requirements, which are set into the requisites as a threshold for graduation, have since dwindled in importance.

Many institutions have yet to address this trend, and students are realizing that general education requirements are more of an obligation than an opportunity. Many fail to realize the significance of studying other disciplines and the elusiveness of generating a well-rounded student.

What needs to change in many institutions, including Pitt, is the approach advisers, professors and administrations take to diversify and reinvigorate general education requirements. Students should feel optimistic and eager to learn about other curriculums instead of approaching classes focused on nothing but the end of the semester.

First, the administration has to take a deeper look at what requirements students should fulfill depending on the school or department relevant to their major. Rather than providing an umbrella requirement list for each school in a university, department heads should look into creating requirements that are better tailored to that subject area. While it might seem as though doing just that would contribute to the problem at hand, by creating different requirements for each particular major in an institution, students would have a better idea of what they want to pursue.

Second, constructive advice needs to be put back into advising. With a change in requirements, advisers must be proactive in helping students pursue the right majors and areas of study. Advisers across the board must work to understand what a student wants out of his or her education and move forward accordingly. This is not to say advisers should be holding the hand of each student, but advisers have to be able to do more than direct. Although college students presumptively are mature and independent, the career path they choose is absolutely dependent on what they study, and they will be more likely to focus their efforts on requirements that directly relate to their studies. Advisers should realize this.

Third, professors have to assist in this process as well. While general education requirements may change and adjust, professors have to make information about the courses they teach more accessible to students and advisers. If course information and syllabi are made available before enrollment, students and advisers can make better decisions about what courses to take and promote, respectively. If this process occurs, enrolling in courses to fulfill general education requirements can be as fortunate as possible.

Altering the general education requirements can seem dubious given the age-old systems in place. But, diversifying, rather than expanding, the requirement list can bring about the much-needed positive changes that students need.

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