Does UCSB Need a General Education Reform?


Maria Nguyen

Does an art major need to take a class on calculus? Does an engineering major need to take a class about film theory?

University of California, Santa Barbara’s current general education requirements are allocated by degree, college, and major. Each college–the College of Creative Studies, College of Letters & Science, and College of Engineering–has strict confines as to how many courses of which particular subject area is necessary to graduate.

There are multiple drawbacks that come along with our current strict GE requirements. The majority of us have already spent 12 to 13 years on general education; we learn about each subject area from elementary school, to middle school, to high school. Doing away with the requirements of GEs gives students a chance for a more in-depth expertise for their concentration.

According to the UCSB Office of Financial Aid website, the cost of tuition for an undergraduate, in-state, student at UCSB for the 2014-2015 year is estimated at about $12,192. Students are strained to take multiple required courses out of their area of interest–and to pay for them.

If you are coming into college with slim to none advanced placement course credit, it may take more or less than two years to complete these GEs. With the consideration of time and money, $24,000 is spent toward classes that are not nearly as relevant as classes in your major would be. The more classes required, the more time and money is spent for each student.

With UCSB’s current system for GEs, there is a strict divide for lower division classes versus upper division classes. What this means is that there is a sharp transition between a broad base of schooling, and specific expertise of teaching. While lower division classes are attuned for any major, upper division classes are designed so that the disciplinary aptitude is clustered in the last few years.

Being an ace of all trades for the first two years of your UCSB career is a disadvantage if the aim is to be talented and extensively knowledgeable about your main pursuit. The idea of a depth curriculum rather than breadth allows for more focus and expertise on your discipline.

Along with the idea of more in-depth knowledge of your major, doing away with GEs would allow for stronger relationships between students and professors. Having the same people in your classes can help solidify professional relationships between peers and disciplinary professors.

When the GE requirements are so heavily stressed, students tend to rush to find both relevant classes and ones that satisfy their GEs. From this, particular classes become crowded while other classes contain students who are fairly dispassionate about the subject. There are still juniors who are trying to take Writing 2 classes while there are plenty of freshman with an unfulfilling course schedule for the quarter.

While the most popular major for undergraduate students coming into UCSB is the “undeclared” major, community colleges like SBCC are tailored to help with breadth education. Community colleges do not require majors, in part, to assist those who are not as sure of their disciplinary focus yet.

Institutes of higher education in countries like India, China, Korea, Spain, Denmark, and Germany do not demand the same general education requirements as U.S. universities do. Some of these countries, like India and China, are the largest education hubs for higher education. On top of that, many of these countries include numerous top rated universities in the world, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, for their discipline-intensive programs.

General education reform for UCSB could take a boulder off of students’ shoulders, and at the same time give them more freedom.