No Classes, Just Finals

 

Imagine being enrolled in a class with no lectures, no professors and only tests. This could have been reality for some students if California Assemblyman Scott Wilk’s (R-Santa Clarita) bill AB 1306 had passed through the Committee on Higher Education. Introduced in February and pulled by Wilk himself before proceeding to an April 23 hearing, the bill proposed to establish a “New University of California” college system alongside the existing University of California, California State University and California Community College systems. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the proposed system would only administer exams. How a student learns the material (through the Internet, books or tutors, for example) would be entirely up to their discretion. Once they successfully pass required exams, students receive credits and degrees in the subjects they pursue. However, although this system could provide a cost-effective education, it would not foster effective studying habits and would deprive students of a wholesome learning experience. Higher education shouldn’t involve taking the critical process of interacting with professors and other students out of the picture. 

According to Wilk, easy access to affordable education and encouraging students to learn in the manner of their preferences are the bill’s main goals. These are both notable, but upon closer analysis raise several issues. The annual UC in-state tuition is approximately $13,000, $7,000 at CSU campuses and about $46 per unit for community colleges. Excluding administrative and examination fees, there would be no tuition and only exam costs for the New University of California — a big difference in price tags compared to the UC system. Yet, individual differences in educational costs would exist since students could be learning from Google instead of paying for outside classes.

While some classes don’t necessitate student attendance, many others do. Here at UCSD, for example, chemistry laboratory classes require performing almost six hours of hands-on “wet” lab work per week. Reading something in theory is different from putting it into practice. Students oftentimes don’t understand what they’ve been learning until they see a visual manifestation of the material. Laboratory classes like these require extensive experimentation, where a professor or TA is needed to guide students’ progress. There’s a big problem when students aren’t provided with the proper resources to learn by this type of trial-and-error method.

If this plan had gone into action, this kind of college education would solely consist of preparing for exams, rather than learning for learning’s sake. All energy would be focused on passing tests, causing students to miss out on invaluable learning experiences. Students wouldn’t be able to attend any office hours for help and may feel pressured to turning to online or other test preparation courses. This would be beneficial for test-prep companies like Princeton Review and Kaplan, but not for students. Although the costs of these courses alone are significantly lower than the costs of tuition, they can still get pricey as intensive study courses like for the MCAT easily top $2000. 

Interim Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs of California Community Colleges Mike McGee brings up the concern of the proposed college system’s accreditation. According to The Daily Californian, the new university would have a chancellor and a board of 11 trustees, but no professors. With ever-increasing standards, many graduate schools may not even accredit a university that doesn’t have any teaching faculty. Many professional schools additionally require letters of recommendations from professors who know their students well. It’s already difficult to receive solid letters from professors who only see students during office hours — but it would be impossible to procure one from a professor who doesn’t exist. 

Attending classes, gaining internship opportunities and being involved in campus organizations and internships are all important in helping students develop responsibility and time management. Such experiences are all available through opportunities offered by schools and the social network students establish in college, which the new university would not provide. 

Although this proposal could have possibly lowered the costs of receiving higher education, the money saved in the end would not be worth the costs of being deprived of a valuable educational experience. Total tuition may cost over $100,000, but memories and experiences should not be limited by a price tag.

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