Starting fall 2020, students entering the School of General Studies with under 30 credits will be required to take Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization if they have not already fulfilled their literature/humanities and social science requirements. According to administrators, the effort comes as part of a broader move to slowly integrate General Studies students into the Core Curriculum.
While Columbia College’s quintessential Core Curriculum has included Lit Hum since 1937 and Contemporary Civilization since 1919, they have not been required courses for students in General Studies. Within the General Studies Core are literature/humanities and social science sections that require two courses each. Students could count Lit Hum toward the former section and Contemporary Civilization toward the latter. While the Core classes have been posed as a locus for community and common learning for all undergraduates, students in General Studies have often been left out, as they have historically been placed in separate Lit Hum and Contemporary Civilization classes.
The change is the second major alteration to General Studies’ interaction with the Core Curriculum following last semester’s initiation of a pilot program testing integration of General Studies students into Columbia College sections of Lit Hum and Contemporary Civilization.
Requiring Lit Hum and Contemporary Civilization for General Studies students was a goal pushed by Peter Awn, the late dean emeritus of the School of General Studies, who called it the “final step” in the synchronization of the General Studies and Columbia College curricula.
According to Victoria Rosner, the General Studies dean of academic affairs, the move comes as part of an effort to integrate General Studies students into the Core Curriculum.
"What I think this initiative helps us to do is to just increase and grow the consensus around the value of the Core experience for GS students. The more students who take these courses, the more students who share their experiences with other GS students, so I see this as a slow culture change that I hope will be beneficial to so many of our students.”
The change could result in an influx of General Studies students into Lit Hum and Contemporary Civilization classes. Currently, the General Studies-only sections of those courses can accept a maximum of 66 students each. Columbia’s resources for Core classes are already stretched thin, as the University struggles with a lack of available space and instructors. General Studies took in 765 undergraduate students across the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters, roughly 25 percent of whom had no transfer credit.
Rosner said that an increase in General Studies-specific sections of Core classes has “not been ruled out,” and that the Center for the Core Curriculum, which oversees Core classes, has not finalized specific plans. However, she cited the recent pilot program to integrate General Studies students into Columbia College Core classes as one possible way to resolve the space ans instructor conflict.
Both Lit Hum and Contemporary Civilization are four-credit courses, though there are also three-credit options available for both the literature/humanities and social science requirements. General Studies students pay $1,896 per credit and have a tuition cap at $32,232 for 17 or more credits, meaning Lit Hum and Contemporary Civilization, because of their higher credit value, cost more than other requirement-filling courses.
The difference is particularly notable given General Studies’ perennial lack of financial aid and the high population of low-income students at General Studies. Over 40 percent of students in General Studies are eligible to receive Pell Grants, while 16 percent of students at Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science receive them.
Rosner said that the change was carefully considered and limited to only those students with fewer than 30 transfer credits in order to ensure that no student would need to exceed the 124 credits needed to graduate and thus incur additional costs.
“We don't see it as a significant change. We see it as something that we need to be very mindful of to protect GS students from incurring any extra financial burden. That is something we would never want to do.”
Regarding efforts to integrate General Studies with the rest of the undergraduate population, Rosner said that the change will be part of what she sees as a “slow cultural change” that will better connect all students to the Core.
“We are keen to have as many GS students as possible participate in what we see as really being at the heart of the Columbia undergraduate program,” she said.