KBOR pushes for changes to gen eds statewide

General education plan in works would reduce the number of requirements from 36 to 34-35.

Infographic by Thy Vo

Most students at WSU spend more than a year completing general education courses required of all students, no matter their college or major. Now, the Kansas Board of Regents is looking to reduce the requirements. 

KBOR, the governing board for higher education in Kansas, last changed general education requirements in 2019, when the number of credits went from 42 to 36 credit hours to better align with a 2017 requirement that made colleges cap degree programs at 120 credit hours. That change caused WSU to condense their general education requirements. 

The new “Systemwide General Education” program would affect the six state universities: Emporia State, Fort Hays State, Kansas State, Pittsburg State, University of Kansas and Wichita State, as well as Washburn and community colleges. 

KBOR completed their new plan, which had been in the works since the end of 2020, in June 2022.

With the new plan, KBOR intends to make transferring from one Kansas school to another in the state easier, a universal struggle for transfer students.

Faculty Senate response

Mathew Muether, KBOR’s general education committee chair, presented the new general education plan to WSU’s Faculty Senate at their meeting on Jan. 30, where it was met with mixed responses.

“I warned at the time in 2019 (that LAS) was going to suffer as a result of the cuts that were approved at that time,” Chase Billingham, at-large sociology senator, said. “We are facing pressure from rpk and the Board of Regents on that very issue. I fear it is going to get even worse if we approve this.”

KBOR hired rpk Group, an educational consulting firm, almost a year ago to look at the six state universities’ degree programs.

“Is this like a general trend that we’re transforming higher education institutions into many polytechnics?” Terrance Figy, a physics senator, said. “I kind of have mixed feelings about this proposal.”

Holger Meyer, a physics senator, expressed concerns with students avoiding prerequisites through transfer gen eds. Meyer pointed out that there is a way to meet general education and miss classes required for majors.

“Even though this is being presented to us as basically a done deal,” Billingham said. “We on the Faculty Senate, and we in the faculty are going to vote on this, and you do not need to vote yes.”

Jeff Pulaski, at-large art and design senator, suggested that instead of giving in to KBOR, WSU should communicate with the other universities and come up with their own general education framework.

“If there’s a lot of dissatisfaction at the other four year institutions,” Pulaski said, “Perhaps a meeting with KBOR to say give us a little more time to come up with something that meets our goals and your goals.”

Current general education program 

The current general education program requires 36 hours of courses. 

Required courses (36 hours):

Foundation courses (12 hours):

  • Two English courses
  • Math 
  • Communications 

Divisional Courses (12 hours): 

  • Fine arts
  • Humanities
  • Social/behavioral sciences
  • Mathematics and natural sciences

Additional general education courses (12 hours):

  • Four additional general education courses from at least two of the four divisions listed above, with one being a first-year seminar 

Changes proposed under new plan:

The new program would require students to complete 34-35 credit hours for general education, only a one or two hour reduction from the current program.

Within the foundation courses there would be no change — still requiring six hours in English and three each in communications and math.

The change would come to divisional courses.

Math and science would be separated. With the new plan, it would be renamed to a natural and physical science discipline that requires a course with a lab. This would take the requirement of three credit hours in this discipline to four or five.

Social and behavioral sciences requirements would increase from three to six hours.

Fine arts and humanities would be combined into one discipline area, but the credit hour requirement would remain the same: six hours (one from each).

In addition, the 12 hours of extra divisional courses would be reduced to six, with three hours of this needing to be a diversity course. The Faculty Senate will discuss the program more on Feb. 13 at the next meeting.