Rethinking General Education: Too Many Options?

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Series: Costs Down, Quality Up

Historically, initiatives to improve quality have also meant added cost—smaller class sizes, more faculty who conduct research, etc.—but this is no longer a sustainable model for all institutions. What are the innovations that can actually drive the cost to educate a student lower while driving critical outcomes like student success and completion higher? This series offers provocative questions that challenge the cost-quality paradigm and the old ways of managing institutional strategy and growth.

Also in this series:
Why Good is Still the Enemy of Great for Most Colleges and Universities

by Robert C. Dickeson, President Emeritus, University of Northern Colorado

After a visit to a university campus, I received the following inquiry from one of its academic leaders:

Bob, when you visited, you mentioned that we have too many GE course options. We are taking a look at this. What are the advantages of decreasing the number of options? Is this a resource question? What if the course is part of a major? Is there a problem including it as a GE distribution as well?

This inquiry deserves a serious response and, as it also affects academic sensibilities on other college and university campuses, I thought I’d write a fuller response. In this article, I will speak briefly to:

  1. Why general education is critical
  2. Why general education has gone astray
  3. Why this is an issue of resources, not just quality
  4. Specific, practical suggestions for reviewing the general education curriculum

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