The Provost’s Task Force recently submitted a report filled with suggestions for improving undergraduate education. Many of the proposed plans seemed unsubstantiated, and not enough information was provided to help students decide whether Tech should really implement these changes.
Among the suggestions was a transition into a trimester system with equal course offerings and semester lengths for fall, spring and summer. The primary reason provided was to increase the low four-year graduate rate, which Tech is infamous for. While such a system would also offer students additional flexibility, the tradeoffs are unclear at best and could include overhauling the existing system, which supports participation in study abroad, co-ops and internships.
The four-year graduation rate is not the best metric for the quality of the student experience at Tech, but even if improving it were made into a priority, there are other possible solutions that could better serve students. One example, which some colleges and schools, including the College of Computing and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, have already implemented would entail all academic departments listing their course offerings as much as two full years in advance. This would allow students to plan ahead and make the most of their semesters without necessitating a drastic change that could have significant time and financial implications.
Other suggestions included instituting mini semesters in January and May (which would depend on the switch to the trimester system) and creating an emphasis on interdisciplinary minors. These seem more like buzz words of higher education than well thought out reforms that could benefit and interest the majority of Tech students on a practical level.
Student input on undergraduate education that goes beyond the exit surveys given to graduating seniors is needed. The task force should elicit the valuable opinions of both current students—especially fourth and fifth years—and recent alumni already in graduate school or in the work force.
After what seemed like the longest election season in recent history, Election Day is now upon us. Voters should be well informed on the candidates beyond the sound bites heard in recent weeks, remember the congressional elections also taking place and be aware of what else will be on the ballot. Before you vote, make sure you do your homework.