General Education Requirements: Necessary or Not


General education requirements, Gen Eds for short, is a phrase that has been in most college students’ vocabulary since high school. Gen Eds are courses that everyone has to take and pass regardless of his or her major to complete his or her degree. The majority of general education requirements at Delta State consist of English, fine arts, social sciences, mathematics, science, and First Year Seminar.

Colleges and universities have general education courses because they want students to have a broad education, whether the students want to or not. Gen Eds produce well-rounded students who have knowledge in many fields, because many jobs require employees to be knowledgeable in several areas. These general courses are meant to shape and help students become educated and productive members of society. In some cases, students have found general courses they are more interested in than their major.

Although colleges and universities have general education courses for good reasons, there are some downsides. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni surveyed 1,100 colleges and found that two-thirds of the colleges earned a “C” grade or lower for general education courses. Most students see Gen Ed courses as a waste of time and hinders them from attaining their major.

Larry Belzone, Delta State junior and digital media arts major, wishes that general education courses didn’t exist at all. ”I’m an Art major and I’m a horrible in math,” he said. “I almost failed College Algebra, and if I had, I would have to take the class again, which would be wasting money and time that I don’t really have. I should have a choice if I want to take a Gen Ed. course or not, and not be forced to take one. I’m paying my money; I really believe I should choose what I want and not the other way around.”

Most students feel the same as Belzone and so does Dr. Jacqueline Craven. Craven is the Doctoral Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Teacher Education. “There should be more flexibility with regards to what students take as general education courses,” she said. “At minimum, those courses should pertain to the degree students seek rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. A well-rounded education for everyone is ideal, but we can re-examine how we define ‘well-rounded’ with regard to each degree program while also critically considering the extent to which ‘ideal’ is feasible. Students should also play a large role in making these decisions.”

Paul Hanstedt, an english professor and General Education Director at Roanoke College, says the biggest problem with general courses is not the courses themselves but the students. Students fail to realize the importance of general education courses and fail to apply themselves fully. Skills learned in one class can be applied to a completely different subject.

Recent studies have revealed that incoming college freshman are not prepared for the rigor of college class work as they were underprepared by their high school courses. Gen Eds allow students to build a solid foundation of knowledge that is necessary in college and in life.

All in all, general education courses will most likely continue to be the basis of every college and university, but changes can be made to the general education program.