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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

College courses: Trust or bust?

Opinion columnist Drayton DeBoef reflects on classes at UNI, and if coursework is relevant for students
Students listen and take notes as a professor speaks during a class. According to DeBoef’s survey of UNI students from over 20 different majors, 70% of students believe college classes within their major effectively prepare them for their future career.

As the current semester progresses towards the midpoint, students at UNI find themselves in a reflective mood, contemplating their academic journey and the road ahead. With early registration for spring classes on the horizon, many are eager to refine their interests and map out their educational trajectory. However, not all students share the same level of enthusiasm about their academic experience. 

For some time, growing concerns throughout the student body here at UNI have been focused on whether the classes they are enrolled in are playing an effective and purposeful role for their future, posing a pressing question: Is their course load foundational and helpful, or is it a money grab?  To shed light on this timely issue, I created a comprehensive survey that was conducted and distributed to UNI students, drawing insights from a diverse cross-section of students covering over 20 majors. 

It’s valuable information that will help in a career but there’s so much I feel that I’ve missed and I am almost done with my major. I don’t feel ready for a career yet.

— Anonymous Psychology Major

In interest of confidentiality, this survey was conducted anonymously. The objective was clear: to understand how students perceive the value and purpose of their coursework. 

The opening question: “Do you believe that college classes within your major effectively prepare you for your future career?” This provided an interesting split. 70% of students answered Yes, with a 30% in opposition standing with No. As the survey results are analyzed, it becomes evident that there is a spectrum of opinions among students. While some express satisfaction with the alignment of their coursework with their future goals, others harbor reservations about the value they are receiving. However, these numbers were proven to be much more complex. A current construction management major voices their stance. “[Answered yes] Before CM I was a supply chain management student. Not a single one of my classes taught me something I’d actually be doing in the workforce. Total waste of time and money, it’s ridiculous.” 

The trend continues with this statement from a current Psychology major: “[Answered no] It’s valuable information that will help in a career but there’s so much I feel that I’ve missed and I am almost done with my major. I don’t feel ready for a career yet.” 

One of the key concerns seems to be that some classes either aren’t totally useful, or miss the mark completely in terms of how well they can be used. Why? Well, here’s another interesting dynamic expressed by an Interactive Digital Studies major: “There’s a few professors in my classes that should have retired 20 years ago as their practices are now way outdated” and another response by a Digital Media Production major “I don’t believe that the classes required to complete my degree are fully up to date. I think what’s being taught now would have been standard 25 years ago…”

It’s no argument that college courses should serve a valuable purpose, especially with the substantial financial burden that inflated tuition prices can sustain. But, before we can move forward with the discussion of college course effectiveness, it’s important to find out what standard students are holding these courses up to in order to feel this way. 

Another question presented in this survey asked “What makes a college course effective and practical?” and answers by the truckload came in as “learning something in the course if it’s effective in your own life” and  “relevant and applicable in real world situations” as well as “it prepares you explicitly for the job you’ll be performing.”

All reasonable things to ask, and yet 30% of students still don’t think that’s what they are receiving. This is an important statistic to recognize, however, there was some promising feedback to pinpoint where this reaction might lie. Some responses indicate a culprit: “General Ed classes just aren’t it man…” as well as “Any and all of the general education classes are useless. If a class doesn’t prepare me for work I shouldn’t be taking it”  followed by “[Beneficial classes?]…and negatively beneficial, every gen ed ever.”

Regardless of your thoughts on how well your classes prepare you, one thing remains certain for most students’ outlook–They want their classes to be applicable, and General Education courses seem to be missing the dot. This small section of responses are not enough to convince a majority, but at the very least they should spark some questions. Students should rest easy knowing that all 4+ years of their education will be useful, effective and applicable. Not just some of it. 

I’m not going to spin some magic 8 ball to manifest a movement for change, nor am I going to stop attending my classes out of protest. I truly have a deep enjoyment here studying at the University of Northern Iowa. It’s a beautiful campus with so much to offer and an endless list of positives. However, there comes a time where certain realities should be discussed. UNI is a great university, but not a perfect one. That can be said of every college in existence. And as a student body it’s important that students take the time to truly reflect on the education they are receiving, something as prestigious and expensive as college is not something to take lightly. Your education matters, and it’s only responsible to ensure that all of your time and work spent on campus is well worth it. 

A Digital Media Leadership major invites a helpful perspective with their response: “I think that you have to want it…” And this couldn’t be closer to the truth. Study after study can be conducted, but what the survey can’t fully take into account is the individual’s heart. Yes, college education is due for a change in a big way, but don’t allow yourself to slip into a spiral of emotional backlash to the system without taking an introspective approach first. To some, college is a drag and none of their classes make any sense for what they want to do. For another it could be the polar opposite. And this very well could be due to their desire to utilize college for life after it. College is not for everyone. Success is around every corner and looks vastly different from person to person. But I truly believe for those that choose to commit themselves to completion here at UNI, that their time should not be wasted, nor their work overlooked.

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