Do “Weed-Out” Classes Make any Sense?

by Taylor Johnson

Weed-out classes are something many students have faced at one point or another. However, some believe they still serve a purpose. In this article, Adams argues points that many of us likely agree with, that weed-out courses are used as intimidating tactics for freshman students who are just getting used to the college experience and that they discourage students from high-demand STEM careers that we need more people to pursue.  Adams also references how these types of classes impact minorities, saying a recent survey found that half of the science chairs at various universities believe weed-out classes are discouraging women and minorities from entering STEM-based careers. Given all of these terrible aspects of these types of courses, they prevail in almost all universities. While I understand they are used to make sure the people entering these careers are qualified, it seems that these courses are actually pushing people away, and making students feel inadequate in careers they could be a good fit for. This makes me wonder, is there a way we can still have challenging courses without them having the stigma of being a weed-out course? Or will any hard class with high fail rates achieve this title, making them simply inevitable with “harder” programs?

25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College” Part II

The Center for College Affordability has produced a report entitled “25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College”. This is the second of a three part series outlining their recommendations.

With college costs and withdrawal rates continuing to rise, it is obvious that major changes need to take place in higher education. Institutions are not student-centered and are falling behind on innovative methods of delivering education. Students withdraw for educational, as well as financial, reasons.

Here are some potential solutions to this problem:

  • To improve education quality at the institutional level, it is necessary to stimulate the desire of teachers to improve and update their teaching methods. One way to motivate teachers is to abolish tenure. This would require full-time professors to be continually evaluated in order to continue their job. Tenure could be replaced with renewable long-term employment contracts with full-time professors, which allows for flexibility as well as job security.
  • To measure teaching more easily, the state could mandate that teachers work a certain number of hours per week or institutions could reward quality teaching financially. Today, the national reputation of institutions is measured through research, whereas it should be through quality teaching.
  • Institutions should also maximize the use of facilities and allocate space efficiently. While institutions see increases in tuition as ways of earning revenue, they should instead rent out classrooms or recreational centers in order to earn revenue.
  • Another way to increase revenue is to outsource services through sale or long-term lease of capital assets to private entrepreneurs.

With institutions freeing up spending on teachers and facilities, institutions can cap tuition increases. Students can cut down on their costs through multiple ways.

  • An innovative model is to encourage students to attend community college as it saves students money.
  • The acceptance of community college credits also needs to more cost efficient and standardized.
  • Institutions also need to standardize the credit transfer of dual enrollment programs like Advanced Placement, on-line education, and College Level Examination Program. Not all institutions accept alternative ways of earning college credit because they reduce potential tuition revenue. The federal government could mandate that institutions accept credits from dual enrollment programs.

Higher education is fraught with debt and withdrawal rates. Changes will need to be taken by institutions and enforced by institutions and the federal government. Therefore, roles in higher education need to be defined and all need to be held accountable.