While filling out my degree application recently, a few things jumped out at me as I looked at it more closely. The first thing I noticed was the number of hours that I was filling in for the core classes. Almost half the hours I was applying for were considered core, while the remaining half were split among my major, minor and electives.
Essentially, I had no choice in half of my college curriculum.
Secondly, I noticed that I just barely met the advanced hours requirement, which states that one-third of credit hours must be at the 300 level or above. The reason I was barely meeting this requirement was not because I hadn’t chosen to take advanced level courses when I could. Rather, the required courses mentioned above are all at the 100 or 200 level, which took up available hours that I could have used for more advanced coursework.
As I noticed these things, I began to question why I was required to take so many lower-level courses, especially considering it takes away time that I could devote to classes within my field(s) of study.
Before that question can be answered, however, we must first understand the primary purpose of higher education. Above all else, colleges and universities exist to prepare students to gain specific and purposeful knowledge pertaining to the field in which they intend to work.
Let that be understood.
College’s primary purpose is not to be a social transition from high school to the workforce. Nor is it to provide students with a diverse academic background. Nor is it to be four years (or more) of partying and having fun before the real world comes knocking. While those are supplementary purposes of higher education institutions, they should not take on higher importance than the primary purpose.
The core curriculum flies in the face of the primary purpose of higher education, yet it is so ingrained in the university culture that one does not dare to question it, much less attempt reform.
Imagine if universities and colleges made it possible to obtain a degree in two or three years, instead of four or five. Imagine if universities and colleges allowed you to take the courses that you truly wanted to take, instead of dictating a rigorous curriculum that takes up half of your undergraduate career. Better yet, imagine if colleges and universities let the student be the master of his or her own curriculum.
With the issues regarding rising tuition, crippling student loans and unprepared graduates swirling around higher education, why has no one stood up and said, “Enough is enough?”
While I will always look back on my time at Ole Miss with a smile, I cannot help but feel as I wind down to the end that I have wasted a lot of my time. As a matter of fact, it comes out to about half.
Trenton Winford is a senior public policy leadership major from Madison, Miss.