April 14, 1997

Task Force on General Education Curriculum and Its Resources

Historical Background

In spring 1995, APSCUF leadership and the university administration held a series of meetings to discuss the growing budgetary pressures on the university. These pressures resulted from shrinking support from the Commonwealth for public higher education, a consensus that public support will continue to shrink in the future, and the belief that the existing curriculum could be made more cost effective. It was believed that the current General Education Program contributed significantly to these pressures through a negative impact on the student/faculty ratio, a primary measure of educational cost. In addition, there were serious problems with implementation. The maximum class size for 'W' courses was increased to 30, the number of "P" sections was insufficient to meet student need, and students were having great difficulty getting the courses they needed for a timely graduation.

As a result of these meetings, three task forces were established in summer 1995: 1) the Curriculum Cost Analysis Task Force, 2) the Class Schedule Audit Task Force, and 3) the Data Development Task Force. These three task forces were charged respectively with determining the precise costs of the general education curriculum, determining the role in which scheduling practices negatively affected our educational costs, and analyzing the data and information needs of the university. The first two task forces reported their findings to the Provost at the end of the 1995 fall semester and the third task force reported to the Vice President for Finance and Administration in spring 1996.

At the fall 1995 convocation, the President, with the concurrence of APSCUF, announced two interim curriculum measures, which took effect immediately, to contain costs, to ease the burden on faculty who were teaching "W" courses with enrollments over 25 and to reduce some scheduling difficulties: 1) the perspectives requirement was reduced from two courses to one course for all students currently enrolled, and 2) the ten pages of revised prose requirement for 'W' courses was dropped and faculty could use whatever methods and measures they deemed appropriate to foster and evaluate the writing aspects of their 'W' courses.

Later in fall 1995, the current task force was established. The Task Force on the General Education Curriculum and its Resources consists of four faculty appointed by the APSCUF President, four faculty selected by Faculty Senate, a student elected by Student Senate, and two non-voting ex-officio members appointed by the President. The task force was charged with:

The attached report is the response to this charge. We have tried to preserve the goals and philosophy of general education at Millersville University. We believe that these recommendations are modest and feasible. They are preferable to having the adm inistration impose a solution or to having outside parties dictate remedies to us.

Rationale for why revision of the General Education Program:

1. Simplify the General Education Program for the student and for the university. A simplified program will help plan for the appropriate seats and sections of courses and will reduce the number of curricular exceptions currently being processed. It will make advisement less of a number counting activity and provide more opportunity for advisor and advisee to focus on meeting the educational goals of the student. Furthermore, streamlining will facilitate timely graduation.

2. Maintain quality and control cost. In order to enhance quality and reduce costs, it is necessary to streamline and increase the efficiency of the current curriculum. One way that this can be accomplished is by using University resources more effectively to maintain small sections at the advanced undergraduate level while increasing class size at the introductory undergraduate level in certain courses. Certain curriculum requirements in the general education portion of the curriculum can be eliminated and/or modified in such a way as to ensure quality, but bring about important cost savings.

3. Develop a process for demonstrating to ourselves, our students, their parents, and other constituencies that the General Education Program does, indeed, deliver what it claims to deliver. The goals of the General Education Program are not stated in a measurable form. The way in which we currently show that students have met the objectives of general education is simply by verifying, before graduation, that they have taken the required number of labels. This is not sufficient to demonstrate that they have, in fact, acquired the skills which our general education program purports to deliver.

Time frame: Phase 1 will be developed and implemented by Fall 1997, Phase 2 by Fall 1999.


1. Keep the current general education curriculum of 54 hours. Blocks G1, G2, and G3 (the liberal arts core) remain the same. Create a Block G4 in which ENGL 110, COMM 100, AW, HPE and one P course and one Elective are required (18 s.h.). A department may specify the AW and/or the HPE course for its majors. The elective in G4 may be a second P course or it may be a course normally counted in Blocks G1, G2, or G3. The elective should be useful for the hundreds of students who are undeclared or who change majors.
Rationale: Simplify the General Education Program for the student.

2. Up to four courses from the list of "Required Related" courses for a major may be counted in blocks G1, G2, and G3, consistent with normal distribution rules. One of these four may be counted as the elective in Block G4, in which case, only three may be counted in Block G1, G2, or G3.
Rationale: This will provide more flexibility for the student.

3. Require no specific number of courses with C or Q designations. This applies to all students enrolled in Fall 1997 and thereafter. Each C or Q course will retain its designation for the purpose of course approval, advisement, and assessment.
Rationale: Very few students have difficulty satisfying the CQ requirement. Many students take more courses with these labels than required. The committee believes that removing the requirement will not diminish the enrollment in these types of courses and studen ts will continue to take the same number of C and Q designated courses even without the requirement. This will assist in meeting our goal of simplifying the general education curriculum.

4. Require every student to take at least one MATH course approved for the liberal arts core in place of the current QARC requirement. The QARC designation will be retained on courses (see Phase 2, #3).
Rationale: The current QARC requirement is really a MATH requirement. Of the 716 students graduating in May 1996, 708 (98.7%) students satisfied the QARC requirement by taking a MATH course, 7 students satisfied the requirement with a CSCI course and 1 student satisfied it with an ECON course.

5. Reduce the requirement of four 200-level courses in the liberal arts core to three. Rationale: This permits one more 100-level course to count towards general education. In addition, it should make room for some existing large enrollment 100-level courses in student schedules. Students currently take two non-liberal arts core upper lev el courses, AW and P.

6. The University administration will work with each department to create a productivity plan that would both increase enrollments and preserve the department's quality of education. Each department's plan must take into consideration specific factors and situations that exist within that particular department.

7. The requirement that each student take a minimum of four 'W' courses remains in effect. Until the next phase is implemented, faculty teaching 'W' courses are encouraged to devise and use strategies, singly or in combination, which will assure that these courses contain a significant and distinguishable writing component. Examples of such strategies include the following:
The above are examples only and are not meant to limit an instructor's ability to construct other strategies designed to lead students to more fully appreciate the writing process, a process which includes writing, rewriting, editing, and revision. Cours es with a 'W' designation must continue to demonstrate the importance of writing in both individual learning and group communication. Rationale: This is in response to the increased class size in W courses and the lack of guidelines for what a 'W' course should be.


The Task Force believes that an alternative approach to fulfilling the goals of general education is worth considering. The course designations W, C, Q and QARC were intended to ensure that certain kinds of learning experiences took place for all students. However, the Task Force believes that labels alone do not guarantee that the objectives of general education are indeed being addressed.

Universities are among the last organizations pressured to achieve economic efficiencies. Rather than a single event, the need to do more with less becomes an ongoing process. Without the pressure of a profit motive, university staff tend to ignore the economic realities. The challenge for college faculty and administrators is to reduce costs carefully, in well thought out ways which will not erode quality. What is needed is the kind of cooperation and creativity that will allow for improvement while controlling cost. This requires agreed upon measures of cost and quality.

Many factors contribute to the cost of a college education and all need to be considered. The most significant of these is salaries for faculty, administration and staff. The largest contributor to cost is faculty, because of the nature of education. Measuring the true impact of faculty salary is complex but one way is to use student faculty ratio.

Quality is another complex issue. Measuring the results of a college education is a difficult task, partly because even those who provide it do not agree on its purpose. At Millersville, even the portion of that education which we hold in common, genera l education, is reason for considerable debate. The attempt to increase efficiency has revealed the lack of clear definition of what the general education curriculum is designed to achieve. An important first step is to restate the goals of general educ ation in measurable form. Currently, the best indication of what outcomes are intended are the labels required on certain general education courses. Unfortunately, these labels create a complex system of distribution requirements. These requirements complicate the advisement process and, more importantly, they limit a student's choices in ways that may reduce the value of their education.

Using clear definitions of the expectations for general education, the faculty can design courses which will allow for the measurement of the general education goals. Rather than a system which places greater value on some general education course (by means of assigning special labels), any course that is approved for general education should make a significant contribution to the general education of students. To achieve this goal the faculty must first restate the goals of general education in clear and measurable form.

A criticism leveled at the current general education curriculum is that it is too prescriptive, too inflexible, and too complex. It presents difficulties for students and advisors who are trying to negotiate it and it presents difficult staffing and sched uling problems in a time when resources are scarce.

Members of this task force have extensive teaching experience and they have participated in the course approval process at several stages in hundreds of cases. We came to the realization that any general education course is likely to have its own unique combination of W, C, and Q components. As an alternative to designating courses as either W, C, or Q, courses may possess these components in some combination.

The steps recommended below are not intended as major changes in the overall purpose of general education. They are intended to make approval of gen. ed. courses easier.

1. The general education curriculum should reflect and implement the mission and goals of Millersville University. The Faculty Senate, by whatever means it deems appropriate shall identify the knowledge, skills, and perspectives every student should ga in as a result of a general education. This will allow the Faculty Senate to review and revise the mission and goals of general education and create objectives which are stated in a measurable form. Accompanying these goals shall be a compilation of way s to write gen. ed. course proposals and descriptions. This shall include ways to incorporate writing, communication, and quantitative components as well as other goals that may be included in the gen. ed. curriculum. Faculty Senate shall develop an ass essment program which will evaluate whether the General Education Program is meeting its intended outcomes.
Rationale: The goals of general education have not been reviewed since the mid-1980's. The Middle States accrediting agency has mandated the outcomes assessment process.

2. Once the goals of general education have been restated, each department shall review its approved general education courses and restate their objectives. These restatements shall be reviewed and approved by a mechanism developed by Faculty Senate. Departments will be encouraged to propose additional courses for inclusion in the general education program, and to consider whether some courses should be dropped from the currently approved list.
Rationale: This is intended to be a relatively simple process for existing courses. Emphasis will be on the general education goals and how they are addressed in each course.

3. Eliminate the requirement that students take a prescribed numbers of courses with the C, Q, W, or QARC designations. Retain these designations for course approval, advisement, and assessment purposes.
Rationale: This will relieve students and advisors of the onerous task of satisfying gen. ed. requirements in their present form. Furthermore, we can identify where and how gen. ed. goals are achieved. By continuing to require general education courses to address the goals as reflected by the C, Q, QARC and W designations, the overall purpose of general education is maintained. The vast majority of students will get an appropriate combination of C, Q, QARC and W learning experience in the process of me eting the prescribed distribution requirements. The Academic advisor can provide appropriate counsel to the student in individual cases.

4. Other existing rules and requirements of general education will remain in place.


12 credits 12 credits 12 credits 18 credits
G1 - Hum & Fine Arts G2 - Science/Math G3 - Social Sciences G4 - Fundamentals and Electives
Art Biology Anthropology ENGL 110
Comm. & Theatre Chemistry Business COMM 100
English Computer Science Economics AW
Foreign Language Earth Science Geography 1 Perspective
Humanities Mathematics Gerontology HPED
Music Nursing History 1 Elective
(may be a P or any G1, G2, G3 course)
Philosophy Physics Political Science
Social Work

Task Force on General Education Curriculum
Dr. James Sheridan, Chair Mr. Colin McLeod
Dr. William Dorman Dr. Alice Meckley
Dr. Albert Hoffman Dr. Charles Scharnberger
Dr. Terry Madonna Dr. James Stager
Dr. Joseph McCade Ms. Dawn White
Dr. Robert Wismer