Ignoring a decade of academic quality control by Kansas faculty, the Kansas Board of Regents is poised to standardize general education coursework across the state. In August meetings, the chair of the Kansas Board of Regents called for uniform numbering and naming of all general education courses across Kansas.
The impetus comes from some community college and technical schools that have difficulty getting the six Kansas universities to accept their course credits. The reason is simple. Some of their courses are not equivalent, and in some cases, are not even as rigorous as a high school course.
Watchdogging university course and faculty quality has been the jurisdiction of Kansas faculty. For over a decade, departmental chairs and faculty at Kansas four-year universities and community colleges met annually in "Core Competency" meetings. Each year they closely compared courses and curricula. As a result, many community college courses flow seamlessly into four-year programs. Those equivalencies have been clearly defined in "articulation agreements" for decades.
But other "courses" are not equivalent. Reasons have been clearly detailed in annual Core Competency reports. I participated in these meetings for many years and know those shortcomings in biology.
–Cheap courses often use a "baby" textbook. Texts for subjects such as human anatomy and physiology come in both major’s and non-major ("baby A&P") versions. Kansas shouldn’t have its nurses trained on the "baby" book often used to teach high school level A&P.
–No prerequisites. Microbiology and anatomy and physiology courses at some community colleges lack prerequisites. Their course begins at high school graduation level. But these advanced courses should start after additional college biology coursework. There is no way a beginning course can take the student to the level of competency of an advanced class.
–Cheap course syllabi leave out concepts, lacking the coverage and rigor delivered at the four-year universities and the more-solid community colleges.
–Faculty teaching some courses, especially in more remote community colleges, may be minimally qualified and in some cases do not meet the basic "masters plus 18 hours in teaching field" requirement.
–Core Competency reports to the KBOR repeatedly stressed that faculty quality should be ensured by peer evaluation. But at some community colleges, an administrator hires off-campus outreach teachers with questionable or weak credentials and without any faculty review. Indeed, the faculty hottest over this issue were on-campus community college professors who realize their reputation is being hurt by this tuition-driven practice.
Other problems arise outside the Core Competency criticisms. Tech schools, whose mission is to train EMTs, mechanics, etc.—and who have solid faculty with that expertise—are now also allowed to teach general education. Lacking academic faculty, tech school administrators hire retired teachers and others no longer active in academics. Some even advertise 3-credit-hour general education courses that can be finished in just two weekends, making a mockery of what those college courses should be.
KBOR has also rubber-stamped literally hundreds of out-of-state online courses for Kansas students at its meetings—many of even more questionable value—and under the excuse that the attorney general makes them do it. Therefore it is not a surprise that community colleges and tech schools with weak courses are asking the KBOR to place a "high priority" on forcing the four-year universities to accept the courses that previously have been found to be sub par under the Core Competency process.
Some states adopted "seamless articulation" over a decade ago. Their academic quality has plummeted, detailed on the PBS special "Declining by Degrees" available in many libraries). Under seamless articulation, four-year universities realized their unique programs start the junior year. So they hired adjuncts to teach gen ed courses on a per-hour basis. Since hire-a-profs come, teach their course, and leave, the remaining resident faculty must cover double the committee work, advising, research, etc.
By dismissing faculty oversight of course and program quality, standardization mandates will drive courses to the lowest common denominator. Instead of rejecting the low quality courses that are emerging each day, the regents insistence on standardization will rapidly move Kansas to "cheap" teachers, "cheap" courses, and "cheap" degrees. Expensive, but "cheap."