General Education Reform: Unseen Opportunities

lecture hall full of students

A recent national survey conducted by Academic Impressions revealed a surprising and welcome finding that 80% of the more than 300 institutions surveyed have recently completed or are currently involved with reforming their general education

For years, leaders across all types of institutions have been calling for reforms to general education to improve persistence and quality. Traditionally thought of and treated as core to the idea of educating the whole student, general education programs have become increasingly watered down with:

  • Too many choices for students
  • Unclear goals or outcomes
  • No clear link to the distinct mission of the institution

The proliferation of courses that can meet general education requirements marks a missed opportunity to improve student persistence by offering a tightly structured and mission-driven core.

This also adds cost for the institution. As Lucie Lapovsky, past president of Mercy College, notes, “General education curricula with lots of choices tend to be inefficient because all of the seats in most of the classes are not filled.”

The reasons for this situation are many—general education programs are infrequently reviewed, quality is defined only by internal standards, and faculty lobby to have courses included to ensure credit hours for their department. So it’s encouraging to us that institutions are looking to reform their curriculum—because if done the right way, there are numerous real and tangible benefits to be realized.

Drawing on the findings of our survey of academic leaders, this report offers a snapshot of general education reform in the US and Canada. We invite you to read our findings and learn how a few of your peers are revisiting the core curriculum in ways that simultaneously:

  • Improve student persistence and completion
  • Address the growing “skills gap” noted by employers
  • More effectively manage the costs of the general education program
  • Establish a more distinctive program, giving the institution a competitive advantage

Read the report.