LEADing the way

Changes to general education requirements expand options for students

Photo Caption: Experience more freedom with the general education course changes.

Emy Wood

“I definitely run into a stump trying to fit in all of my general education classes. As I get further into my degree there is simply no time. My schedule is full!”

Sound familiar? For Ashley Ryan, junior nursing major and transfer student, it’s a reality she faces every time registration rolls around. But, thanks to changes in the LEAD program, life for future students in a professional track just got a lot easier.

Next year a new general education track will reduce LEAD (general education) requirements for students in professional programs, such as nursing, education and IRR with a parametic emphasis. The requirements will drop to 40 credits from 54, giving students the option of more electives, a minor or for some simply the chance to graduate on time (128 hours will still be needed for graduation).

“Above all, this is being done to help students,” said Malcolm Russell, vice president for academic administration. “By having fewer required hours, the consequences of changing a major, transferring schools or taking unrequired classes will not be as heavy. In theory, we’ve given students 15 hours of choices they didn’t have before.”

Not exactly sure what general education requirements are? Essentially, they’re a collection of credits required by all majors for a degree. These courses, added on top of your mandatory major classes, are aimed at broadening your skills beyond what’s required for your area of expertise. They also come in handy during freshman and sophomore year by giving you some time to explore before you “settle down” on a degree.

While having this extra time and a well rounded education is beneficial, for professional degrees that lead to specific careers, such as nursing, education, or IRR, heavy requirements can prevent students from graduating on time, or  limit their exploration of other areas of interest. “Preparing a student for a specific job is different than a liberal arts degree, in which someone pursues knowledge and skills in their field as well as a working understanding of other key disciplines,” said Russell. “For a general type of employment, it is good to have a general type of education. But someone training for, say education, needs to fulfill specific requirements by law and doesn’t have the luxury within 128 hours to survey many other courses.”

And, this change may appeal to transfer students whose credits don’t always match up with the specified requirements. Now with more elective options, they can rest easy knowing their efforts are still recognized.

“One thing we’re hoping is that this change will enable more students to take a minor or emphasis,” said Russell. This difference can help you in a job interview where striking up a conversation about your minor can create common ground.

“It can also prepare a student for graduate school where specific courses may be required for admittance; it shows focus,” Russell concluded.

This change may appeal to transfer students whose credits don’t always match up with the specified requirements. The exciting news is that this track is just the beginning of developments for changes to the LEAD requirements for all students. In the future, there is discussion of lower general education required credits so all students can have the freedom of choosing more electives or adding in a minor.

Emy is a sophomore studying communication.