More for my money

By Heather Scroering

Entering my final semesters at Columbia, I’ve realized how limited my time here is. Opportunities to take the fun classes I never had time for are running out. The truth is, I really love to learn, but I loathe wasting money.

Unfortunately, several of the non-major courses Columbia has required me to take have felt like money-wasters. My freshman year of college, I found myself begrudgingly rereading the same novels for classes that were required in freshman English courses at my high school. I did homework assignments asking me to respond to questions like, “What did I learn about myself as an artist in class today?” Over time, I noticed myself and some of my classmates growing increasingly lazier in classes that moved at a slower pace to accommodate everyone’s learning curve.

I understand that not every student learns at the same speed, which is OK. That is to be expected in college courses where students from all across the campus are lumped together. This is also not to be taken as a snarky attack on Liberal Arts and Sciences courses at Columbia. Some of my favorite classes, such as The Holocaust, Gay & Lesbian Studies and Middle Eastern History, are LAS courses. But I expect to be challenged in every class.

To students, asking for more rigorous coursework may sound crazy. But if we’re talking money, each course costs roughly $2,041 per semester. Broken down, that’s $136.07 per week for an individual class. That said, I want to walk away from every class I pay for with something to hold onto.

The college could require applicants to write a more thorough essay. While not everyone can be an outstanding writer, an essay longer than a few paragraphs will give a more clear indication of whether or not a student is serious about college. Submitting standardized test scores is optional for applicants. Those who do are exempt from taking a 90-minute placement exam that tells the college where a student stands academically. But perhaps both should be required of new students. If some students are still feeling hindered in classes that don’t meet their academic abilities, more thorough testing must be done for everyone’s benefit.

But it’s not all up to the college. Students must take responsibility in several ways—first by simply applying themselves but also by filling out course evaluations at the end of each semester. Instructors need to know where to improve if a class is too demanding or too easy. If they get no feedback, they simply continue on with the class, business as usual.

While not every class students take in college will be their favorite, all courses must be challenging. It’s no secret that students pay a lot to get a well-rounded education, but every student should feel challenged in each class and have something to show for it in return for their tuition dollars.