Mandatory general education courses should be available at reduced cost

It’s hard to you understand how difficult college is until you experience it for yourself. In reality, I don’t think most college students understand how demanding their lives are until they sit down and examine their weekly schedules — but they don’t even have time for that. All seven days of the week are consumed by expanding to-do lists, obligatory afternoon naps, evening trips to the library and some mixture of coffee turbo shots and concealer to mask the dark circles resulting from the amount of sleep we receive. Even if you spend an entire weekend tackling the mountains of homework you’ve been avoiding, it’s impossible to catch up or stay ahead.

While studying on its own is difficult, there’s something that makes the endless homework even more complicated — studying for a class that has nothing to do with your major. We’ve all thought about it at one time or another: remind me again why I’m spending my time, effort and money to take this geology course when I’m majoring in finance? It seems like a ridiculous money-making scam that colleges force students to take part in. But maybe colleges have a strong interest in making sure that we are overall knowledgeable when we graduate.

Colleges want students to graduate with an overall education, not just knowledge in one specific field of study, so they have the right idea. According to a 2013 Washington Post Article, “Only 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major.” The other 73 percent who didn’t work in the field of their degree had to fall back on something.

While colleges may have a legitimate interest in sustaining the overall proficiency of students, the cost of these secondary classes does not always balance out. Perhaps students shouldn’t have to pay as much for these additional classes that may or may not be useful. In-state students pay roughly $800 for each course taken at the University of Maine. Think about how long it takes you to earn $800 — all spent on one class that may or may not serve a purpose in your life.

Although many students are undecided on a major when they enter college, many students do know what they want to do. Many have known for a long time. Should a student be forced to spend thousands of dollars on classes just because there is a possibility that they might change their mind after they graduate? Colleges should not take on that responsibility. It is not fair to the students who have known what they wanted to do since they were younger and still have to pay for these frivolous classes.

I’ve had to take a minimum of two mathematics courses and two science courses at UMaine. These classes have collectively cost me over $3,000. Like many students with majors outside the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, I’ve always struggled with math and science related courses. So not only did I have to spend thousands of dollars to take these courses, I was required to spend extra time and effort on the homework assignments each week. I would much rather spend my free time on classes that made me want to attend college in the first place: courses that I know will help me get a job.

I understand the argument that certain classes should be mandatory, like civics, economics or subjects that will be useful to anyone in life, no matter their major. But even those classes should be set at a lower rate. We are already obligated to choose a minor that could be used as a sort of backup plan. I’m paying over $10,000 a year to attend college because I want to learn about and make a career out of political theories, the law and Spanish. Not astronomy or the language of math.

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