Not only are students paying more for college tuition today, many Kansas students are now getting less education.
Since the minimum course requirement for a bachelors degree is now 120 credit hours instead of 124, some programs at regent’s schools are beginning to reduce their program course requirements to keep a “market advantage.” University colleagues across Kansas are reporting to me (and I have personally seen) curriculum review changes that lower course requirements.
Sometimes no rationale is given. Other times it is clearly listed: they have to “remain competitive” with other (cheap) programs being offered to Kansas students. This is a “race to the bottom.”
Many university professors who are planning their syllabus for spring 2014 have discovered that they are teaching a shorter year—there will be several class meetings less. Kansas Board of Regents policy changed so that the minimum number of instructional days for an academic year is now 146 plus 5 final exam days. That is why Kansas universities can now have 73 instructional days per semester instead of 75.
We have all seen the cost of our chocolate bars go up to a point where we might actually decide not to buy them. When we reach that point, the business strategy is simple: just hold the price and downsize the candy bar.
But education should not be treated as a business where we downsize our “product.”
Issues of quality in education—and that includes the time it takes to master course content—belong in the hands of faculty, just as medical practice belongs in the hands of physicians and surgeons. But in this time of drastic budget cuts and the threat of closing programs, there has been no faculty pushback to this trimming of education.
Maintaining rigorous coursework and a solid curriculum is a faculty responsibility. I do know of one heroic professor who recognizes that the cut in instructional days will leave students shortchanged. This professor extended the time a class meets. But for the most part, university faculty are abdicating their academic responsibility and leaving these decisions in the hands of administrators.
There is a marvelous character in a Peanuts cartoon who misses a day of school and worries about going through life “one day dumber.”
Many Kansas university students will now be missing 16 days from their four year bachelors degree.
And sixteen days is a lot of “dumb.”