Editorial: Revamping liberal education requirements will help ensure student success

The new provisions will boost academic freedoms and offer a balanced education.

by Daily Editorial Board

Most people at college have experienced the frustration of taking courses that don’t apply to their major. Many see these general requirements, or what a lot of students at University of Minnesota call “lib eds,” as meaningless academic hurdles. 

The Minnesota Daily reported the University has developed a Liberal Education Redesign Committee, which is working to find a new set of liberal education requirements that better fit the school. The same requirements have been in place for 20 years, and faculty feel it is time for a change. 

The Daily Editorial Board sat down with professor Sally Kohlstedt from the College of Science and Engineering and chair of the redesign committee, to learn how the committee came to be and how it’s considering students throughout the process.

While the group ultimately believes the changes are a faculty decision, students were consulted early in the committee planning process. Committee members also share personal accounts of conversations with students to ensure their voices are continuously heard throughout the process. Kohlstedt expressed interest in bringing the lib ed report to the Student Senate, but is hesitant to share a lot of details until the group reaches a general consensus.

We agree students should receive a meaningful education and not feel like they are just checking off boxes. If you taking time to show up to class, study for tests and complete projects, you should be able to walk away from each class with at least one thing you did not know before. But when many students are trying to juggle jobs, extracurriculars and a major course load, these classes end up taking the back burner. 

Course “double-dipping” is a common practice for a lot of students. Being able to take one course that fulfills multiple requirements is something the committee is steering away from. Instead, committee members want to have flexible curriculums that allow students to retain certain ways of thinking, while taking classes they are actually interested in.

This added flexibility means doing away with current education themes. After finding a course that fits a theme and narrowing it down to available times it’s offered, students are often left with a limited pool of classes. According to Kohlstedt, the committee wants to put students back in the position of making their own academic choices. 

The committee is not concerned that these changes will affect students financially. For most students, the changes would mean adding a three-credit course or getting rid of one. The minimum credit requirement for a full-time student is 13 credits and any credits added after that are free. If students are already maintaining their full-time status, there should not be any drastic changes to what they are paying. 

Our biggest suggestion for the board is to take student mental health into account. While it’s important for students to receive a well-rounded education, many are trying to focus on building their careers and ensuring they have successful futures. A lot of these additional requirements outside their major end up being low priority — making them stressors. The curriculum needs to help foster critical thinking skills, which should be delivered in a way that helps students understand the positive impact lib eds can have on one’s learning.