Thesis: US universities are inefficient because they require students take useless classes, instead of requiring useful ones.
I really enjoyed attending school at the University of Michigan and I will always cherish my time in Ann Arbor. It’s only right that my last post is about ways to improve the university and US colleges in general. I see a huge problem in the US higher education system: students are taking out tens of thousands of dollars in debt in order to learn skills so they can get better jobs. However, they’re required to pay for and take useless classes because it’s a requirement for a degree, which in today’s job market is the golden ticket. I will draw upon my experience at the University of Michigan to illustrate these inefficiencies.
In the College of Literature, Arts, and Sciences, students are very limited by the courses they can take because of distributions requirements: natural sciences, humanities, race & ethnicity, social sciences, and college wide requirements. Although the curriculum is designed to give a broader education, some of the distribution classes I’ve taken were complete jokes. Part of the reason I was driven to take these joke classes is because the bare minimum factor employers take into account is a good GPA and I had a better probability of getting better grades in these courses. The other part is because I just wasn’t interested in any of the classes that were offered. Therefore, LSA required me to take 21 useless classes (7 additional credits in three different areas), which cost a ballpark $37,800 in total (out-of-state median credit price is about $1800/credit).
No matter if you do or don’t have student loans, these distributions are an unfortunate waste of money and learning. I’d much rather have used that time to take classes I was interested in and actually offered me some benefit. As a student in LSA, you’re only allowed to take 20 credits outside of the college that count towards graduating (anything after is just excess). I took many classes outside of LSA that were really useful to me like Sports Management 101, public speaking in the School of Kinesiology, Accounting 300/301/312 and Finance 425 in the business school, but after I hit the 20 credit limit, it didn’t make sense for me financially. If the University as a whole required students to take a strong, diverse set of classes freshmen year such as Accounting 300, Engineering 101, English 101, etc. then students may have a better idea of what they want to learn before it’s too late and they get trapped.
College is like cable TV; you can’t pick and choose which channels you want, you have to pay for everything even if you don’t want certain channels. Recently, the cable industry is being forced to offer more custom offerings because of outside pressure from Apple, and I see online education playing that role of pressure to colleges. Don’t get me wrong – I learned a lot during my time at the University of Michigan, but could I have learned more of what I wanted? The answer is yes.