Courses in the General Education program have seen enrollment drops in all categories this past semester, according to Stephanie H. Kenen, the administrative director of Gen Ed.
The drop comes during an interim transition period as the College moves from one Gen Ed program to another. The new program, created after a year of review and slated to be rolled out in full in the fall of 2018, requires students to take departmental classes in addition to classes within four Gen Ed categories—as opposed to the current eight. During the transition period before the full rollout, students can fulfill requirements under either the old or the new system; and under the new program, many students have fewer remaining requirements.
Before the fall semester began, Kenen went through the records of all enrolled students by hand to determine what requirements they had fulfilled under the new Gen Ed model. Because many students realized they had unintentionally fulfilled requirements, Kenen said there was an overall enrollment drop in the Gen Ed program, especially in the Societies of the World category.
“The demand was way down across the board,” Kenen said. However, “It’s one semester, and that does not make a trend.”
In addition, Kenen said classes within the History, English, and Classics departments saw declines in enrollments this semester because many students had already completed requirements in Gen Ed categories for which classes in those departments often fulfill, such as Culture and Belief and Societies of the World.
The Gen Ed program was overhauled after several years of conversation about review. A committee was formed in the spring of 2014 to develop a revamped Gen Ed program, and in the spring of 2015 that committee found the program was “failing on a variety of fronts.” After a year of discussion and debate among professors, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to approve the new program in March of 2016. Last fall, University President Drew G. Faust said when the Faculty was envisioning a new program, they should ensure students receive a liberal, interdisciplinary education that emphasizes elective opportunities and literacy in writing and mathematics.
Determining the right number of Gen Ed courses to offer under the new program is one of the tasks ahead, Kenen said. In addition, Kenen said she wants to increase the program’s transparency and flexibility for students. To achieve these goals, Kenen hopes to update each student’s records with the requirements they have fulfilled before the start of the spring semester.
“We learned a lot over the summer about what not to do,” she said, indicating that the changes could have been communicated better to students during break. “One huge focus is being as transparent as we can with students.”
In addition to communicating effectively about the Gen Ed program with students, Kenen said she hopes to consult undergraduates about courses that will be developed for the new program.
“I’d love to get input from students,” she said. “If Gen Ed is supposed to help students link what they’ve learned in the classroom to what they do outside, what does that mean from [their] perspective.”