Core requirements can be gatekeepers

General education requirements, meant to ensure students get a broad education, can result in them getting no education at all, writes Watson Scott Swail, president of the Educational Policy Institute, on The College Puzzle. A majority of community college students are placed in remedial courses because they’re not prepared for the core curriculum, he writes. Less than a quarter will complete any credential.

Eliminating unnecessary gatekeeper courses could enable more students to reach their goals, Swail writes.

At Tidewater Community College in Norfolk/Virginia Beach, course requirements in diagnostic medical sonography include anatomy and physiology, mathematics, physics, English Composition, a social science elective, a humanities elective, and basic computer literacy.

. . . you understand the focus on anatomy and related technical courses. But the question remains why is it necessary to require non-related courses for graduation that, for many students, may become gatekeepers to completion?

Community college students struggle the most with math. But not everyone needs to master college algebra, writes Swail. Why make it a barrier to vocationally minded students?

“I’m not suggesting we don’t have a general core,” he writes. “I am suggesting we think very carefully about what the core is and what the benefit is to the student as well as the institution.”

Virginia community colleges have lowered math requirements for students pursuing non-STEM majors. Success rates are up.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON August 15, 2014

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[…] General education requirements can be gatekeepers, preventing community college students from earning a certificate or degree. Does everyone need college algebra? […]


Does everyone need high school algebra? Probably not, but we make everyone take it so that the usual high-school, teenager reluctance to think isn’t the driving force in their educational choices. There does have to be some accommodation for those who CAN’T but those who truly can’t are only a very small subset of those who simply don’t want to. I hate to see teenage reluctance affecting career choices and adult appreciation 30 years down the road.

CC kids have more say over their lives and are adults who should make their own choices (with advisors’ help). At this level, the choice of degree largely determines the gatekeeper courses and, as long as those gatekeeper courses are needed for the degree, I have no problem with them.

If not, then toss that requirement aside. Not every person needs college algebra.


The trouble is that technical coursework DOES use Algebra, just not explicitly. If you can’t handle it, you’re going to have trouble with science/tech coursework. Understanding biology, anatomy & physiology, or other science texts (college-level) virtually mandates that level of math.

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