They say college can be the best four years of your life if you play your cards right. After all, you’re young, finally independent and now have an opportunity to separate yourself from the majority of the population by getting a degree. Your college experience is really up to you. Own it, they say. Yet, every semester when you wake up at 6 a.m. to register for classes, you aren’t able to fully own your experience because you are forced to register for a class that has exactly nothing to do with your major.
Core classes. Every university offers them and every student has to take them. According to MSU’s Core 2.0 general curricular requirements, the purpose of a core class is to “provide students with the opportunity to develop their creative and intellectual potential.” This makes sense at first glance. Developing “creative and intellectual potential” is part of what being college educated is all about. Yet, when examined more closely, this language manifests itself as a clever scam designed to force you, the student, to pay for more credits in order to graduate. European nations have already figured this out. Their universities typically don’t require the core courses American universities do, thus reducing the normal amount of time required to earn a bachelor's degree from four to three years.
The only requirement for a college degree should be to pass classes that help an individual gain a specific skill set that will enable them to excel at a specialized career in the future. That’s it. It shouldn’t be to uncover creative potential or to explore random fascinations due to capricious thoughts. Not to say that such explorations aren’t important, but a student shouldn’t be forced to pay thousands of dollars to fulfill such requirements. If a student wants to take a core class or work on a minor on the side that’s great, but it should not be required to graduate. College is way too expensive already, and its cost is only exacerbated by core classes because they increase the amount of time a student must stay in school.
Being a well-rounded person is very important. But do all humanities majors really need to take math and science classes? Does a STEM major really need to take an arts class? It is false that all skills required for a job are taught explicitly by course curriculum. If an engineer, for example, can’t communicate effectively to their peers, they likely won’t be as successful in their profession as a coworker who can. But shouldn't it be the engineer’s responsibility to become a better communicator? Communication skills can easily be picked up outside of the classroom, where the cost of tuition is zero. A completely separate COMX 111 class is often unnecessary.
Before a freshman student walks on campus for their first day of college, they already have 12 years of general education under their belt. That should be enough. With the cost of college so high, it is unjust for universities to require non-major classes as part of the degree requirements. They should be viewed as an optional bonus to a degree instead. Core classes are a waste of time and money.