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Penn State Task Force Continues to Consider Overhaul to General Education Requirements

by on March 19, 2014 12:45 PM

For the past year, a 90-member task force has been evaluating Penn State's general education course requirements for undergraduate students.

And that review could lead to changes in the number and type of courses that are currently required.

Mary Beth Williams, associate dean for undergraduate education, provided an update on an ongoing evaluation before the faculty senate Tuesday afternoon.

Currently, Penn State undergraduate students are required to complete 45 credits deemed by the university as "general education," which covers universal skills, such as math and writing. The concept is to ensure students receive a well-rounded education regardless of major.

Roughly one-third of a student's tuition dollars goes toward the mandated courses, Williams says.

Right now, the task force -- which includes faculty, staff and students, representing departments throughout the university – is accepting public comment in order to develop a revised set of requirements. You can view details HERE.

One option the task force has discussed is offering course "themes" as part of overall general education requirements, meaning a cluster of courses relevant to a student's major. Williams says faculty could tailor the themes at all university campuses.

The task force is also looking at reducing the number of credits from 45 to possibly 36. The task force is not considering increasing mandated credits.

Some faculty members questioned how themes would work at smaller campuses and recommended general requirements include art and music courses.

Additionally, student representative Melissa McCleery criticized the task force for not having enough students participate in the process. McCleery says two full-time student members is part of "weak attempts to incorporate student voice" and is "unacceptable for such a fundamental change."

McCleery, who spoke on behalf of the student caucus asked the task force to have at least five full-time student members before any decisions are made regarding alterations to general education.

Williams agreed the task force needed more student participation and that the group welcomes and encourages more students to participate.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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