Requirements and Scheduling Hindering the Liberal Arts Experience?

     When asked what the biggest adjustment for students coming to college is, most will tell you it’s freedom. This freedom translates to the ability to concentrate their studies in a particular field they find most interesting. The nature of a liberal arts college is to encourage students to explore various topics such as the natural sciences, humanities, and arts—regardless of a student’s major—to ensure they receive a well-rounded education. Enrolling at Skidmore is like clicking “accept terms and agreements” to this goal.

     Although we all more or less agree with the curriculum system, it does present challenges for students. Each department is designed to fulfill different goals, be it by requiring community service or by teaching in local schools. Additionally, the number of courses required in each department varies, anywhere from 16 courses (studio art) to 10 (government). Although a lower number of courses allows for some department flexibility, such as those departments that require an additional major or minor, those with higher required courses become less attainable for students.

     Part of the beauty of attending a liberal arts college is the ability to wait until the end of sophomore year to declare a major. However, overly demanding departments practically force students to begin chipping away at prerequisites as early as a student’s first semester on campus.

     The need to be decisive translates into a smaller scale too, as the add deadline does not adequately allow students to explore a variety of course offerings. This semester, the add deadline was Wed., Jan. 27, only three days after the start of classes. For example, those in classes that only meet on Fridays lacked opportunity to test the waters before committing to enrollment. The credit limit imposed on students registering for classes (18 credits) bars students from sampling an array of classes narrowing down to 18 credits or less.

     Even for those students who are not members of the more rigid, sequence-based departments, the general education requirements can prove to be logistical obstacles. Art courses meet for three hours, twice a week, making them difficult to incorporate into schedules. The lab sciences present the same scheduling problem, with the additional challenge of enrolling in both the lecture and lab section before either fills up.

     Not only can requirements burden schedules, they also burden wallets. Practically every option for fulfilling the art requirement costs upwards of $150 dollars (drawing, dance), and can cost as much as $600 dollars (private music lessons). The least expensive options are the intro music courses, but these are often only appropriate for beginners.

     Requirements, both for individual departments and for the all-college portion of the curriculum, inconvenience students. They unintentionally burden students logistically and financially by forcing them to take especially demanding courses. And for some, the varying level of pre-requisite courses, before students can start taking upper-level courses in their major, can deprive students of the liberal arts education they thought they were getting.




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