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An aerial view of Lawrence, Kansas, and the University of Kansas campus

Starting this fall, colleges and universities in Kansas will all deliver a similar core general education curriculum.

Jacob Boomsma/iStock/Getty Images

For many community college students, transferring to a four-year institution can be complicated as they navigate different requirements for general education courses and prerequisites for major programs.

To ease student burden in the transfer progress, the Kansas Board of Regents adopted Systemwide General Education, which will be in place starting with the 2024–25 academic year.

According to the new policy, all six state universities, 19 community colleges and the state’s municipal university, Washburn University, will participate in a common system framework, establishing clearer state oversight into the transfer process.

What’s the need: Community college students face unique challenges in transfer, with a significant number of students never making it to a four-year institution, much less earning a bachelor’s degree.

In fall 2023, upward transfer (from two-year colleges to four-year institutions) grew 7.7 percent year over year after falling 7.5 percent in 2022, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Credit loss in transfer is one of the biggest challenges for learners, because it increases time to degree and can increase the financial burden of attending college. The average student loses 43 percent of their credits in the transfer process.

Several institutions have invested in transfer initiatives to streamline the process for students, including an online transfer portal and degree mapping. In Texas, leaders created curricular pathway plans for specific degree programs to ease complications in transfer, with a 42-credit block that is accepted at all public institutions.

Kansas’ Board first discussed a systemwide general education package in fiscal 2020 and approved policy revisions in June 2022, to be applied in the 2024–25 academic year, joining other states in the region.

How it works: The new curriculum is comprised of 34 to 35 credit hours, organized into six discipline buckets (English, mathematics and statistics, communications, natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, arts and humanities) and one to be designated by the institution. (The one-credit variation depends on the institution’s natural and physical sciences category, whether it’s a four- or five-credit requirement.)

Within each bucket, students can select from a range of courses that apply toward their major, allowing for some flexibility. In mathematics, students no longer have to complete college algebra, a frequent gatekeeper course, but instead take a course that aligns better with their major.

The institutionally designated bucket is designed to allow for certain courses that don’t fit in other disciplines, such as a student success course, orientation, health and wellness, personal finance or diversity. For example, Kansas State University is utilizing the institutional bucket as an elective category.

Each category must also be identified by its “bucket” to keep common terminology and consistent themes for prospective, current and transfer students, as well as academic advisers and high school counselors to identify commonalities across the state.

Once a student completes all 34 or 35 credits, they will receive an official transcript that indicates they’ve completed GE requirements, which institutions must accept. There may be some exceptions for prerequisites, but to require students to retake courses that have fulfilled statewide requirements, institutions must file requests to be reviewed by the board, adding oversight to the process.

If a student doesn’t complete the entire package, institutions will evaluate their transcripts and apply courses into the discipline buckets as is relevant.

In addition to standardizing general education courses, the new policy also creates reporting requirements and a GE council, which will be responsible for reporting, recommendations for deviation from requirements and investigating any complaints from students or institutions related to the process.

Technical colleges are not participating in the systemwide GE, because their degrees are most often an associate in applied sciences, which is not primarily designed for transfer.

Put into practice: To meet requirements, colleges and universities had to report their general education courses and requirements, which was met with some frustration by faculty members, according to Wichita State University’s student paper, The Sunflower.

Reviewing the curriculum to be aligned with requirements has been a “herculean lift” for faculty, Phil Speary, dean of institutional effectiveness and co-interim vice president of academics at Butler Community College, shared in a news release.

All institutions will apply the new model for students as of 2024, aligning incoming first-time, dual-enrollment and transfer students on the same paths. At Fort Hays State University, Emporia State University and Pittsburg State University, students were placed in KBOR core curriculum starting last fall.

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