The responsibility to direct our education

I have seen classes at colleges and universities range from one credit for a fun physical education class to five credits for an insane engineering calculus class. Yet, I have never heard of paying several thousand dollars in tuition per semester to take a class for zero credits.

Many institutions require students to do just that.

Placement testing for mathematics, writing and reading in colleges and universities is a requirement in many states. Depending on how well or poorly the student scores, a not-for-credit remedial course can become a requirement for the student. This is a very frustrating situation for many students. Fortunately, Florida state lawmakers have hit upon a jewel of an answer to this infuriating issue.

In May, the Florida state legislature voted to make the remedial courses and the placement tests optional for incoming freshmen who are either straight out of high school or right out of the military. In other words, students attending Florida state colleges and universities will no longer be required to spend life savings on classes that will not advance their academic careers.

This is a monumental ruling for students on 28 campuses across the state.

According to a report by Katherine Mangan for “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” there are many who fear that, starting next year, students will be entering introductory-level college courses unprepared. They fear freshmen will not have enough experience under their belts to handle the increased skill level that is required for college.

Although these fears are warranted, perhaps they are overly cautious. It should be noted that the typical college freshman is 18 years old; old enough to leave home, old enough to buy cigarettes, and old enough to be charged as an adult for felonies. By this reasoning, they should also be considered old enough to judge what levels of college courses are appropriate for them.

College and responsibility go hand-in-hand. If a student is not prepared to make educated class selections based on previous course experience and knowledge of individual capability, perhaps that student should not be attending the institution.

Along with responsibility goes knowing when to get help. Every institution of higher education offers help to students who are struggling. It is not a college or university’s goal to trick students into failing. Excellent tutoring is provided at most colleges and universities and, if the academic help is not up to par at the institution, help can always be found off campus.

If a student were to become overwhelmed in a course or fall behind due to the skill level of the material being covered, it should be expected that the student is responsible enough to seek help. Often this means simply showing up for a professor’s office hours or discovering where the tutoring center on campus is. These are easy enough tasks for anyone to do before or after classes.

Additionally, the same report by Mangan also cited that only 15 percent of students who are placed in remedial courses based on placement test scores really need to be there. This means 85 percent of students are wasting valuable time and money while taking these remedial courses in college. And let’s be honest — many students wouldn’t actually show up for such a class.

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that remedial classes in math, writing and reading should not be offered. I am, however, stressing that such courses should be optional. There are some students who need remedial classes. I know that if I weren’t an anthropology major, I would definitely need some remedial math courses. It is nice to know that I have that option, and as a mature college student, I know that I am capable of deciding whether such a class is necessary.  Being able to choose makes us college students, and emphasizes a fundamental responsibility that comes with being an adult.

Email Cristyn Filla at


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