GEs can be a nightmare

Story by Eric Christenson, Editor in Chief

Last week, I received one of the most disappointing emails I’ve ever received. It read: ‘Hey Eric! Hope you’re doing well. You’re missing two general education credits and if you don’t take care of it in 10 days, you can’t graduate in December. See ya later!’

That’s obviously a paraphrase, but it definitely felt just as abrupt.

See, I applied to graduate this past summer (the term before this fall semester, after which I was supposed to graduate). And I received this email at the end of October, which is two months before I was supposed to graduate. And now, there’s literally nothing I can do to graduate on Dec. 22 with the rest of
my peers.

Granted, there are two things I should have done ahead of time to make sure this didn’t happen: I should have applied to graduate sooner and I should’ve met with my advisor before I did that to make sure
I was all set.

I realize this, and I admit that I made a pretty huge mistake. But I can’t be the only one this has happened to. This whole situation reflects a few fundamental flaws in both the required GE system that all undergrads have to adhere to and the process of applying for graduation at UW-Eau Claire.

I applied to graduate in July. Do you know when they should’ve caught the fact that I was missing two credits? In July, exactly five seconds after I applied.

I understand that tons of kids apply to graduate and they have to go through each one as they come in, but that’s why the degree audit system is all computerized, isn’t it? A red flag should’ve popped up somewhere immediately after I applied so they could notify me at a time when I actually had an opportunity to do something about it.

Getting an email in the middle of my (supposedly) last semester saying, ‘Quick! Get two credits somehow!’ absolutely doesn’t help. A more appropriate email should have said, ‘I took three whole months to see that you are missing two GEs and now you definitely have to take a Winterim GE II or III course. That’ll be $1,088.70 more. Thanks!’

My mistake probably isn’t unheard of, either. See, the way GEs at Eau Claire work is that you need a total of 45 credits in four different categories: Communications (GE I), Natural Sciences (GE II), Social Sciences (GE III) and
Humanities (GE IV).

Each category has a minimum number of credits you need and a maximum that counts toward the total of 45. And the minimums and maximums change according to your major/minor.  So, for example, the minimum for GE II for journalism majors is nine credits, but the max is 12. So if you take 15 credits of social science courses, only 12 count toward that 45 credit total.

So I met the minimum requirements for each individual GE category (I even met the maximum in two of them), but only came up with 43 credits.

That’s a very convoluted way of trying to illustrate the fact that having minimums and maximums for each category is completely meaningless if the minimums don’t add up to 45.

I’m not saying I was screwed by the system, I’m saying that the system needs some fundamental changes that would make screw ups by students in my situation impossible.

This can be done easily.

1. When a student applies for graduation, the computer should do a quick scan of their degree audit and if there are certain glaringly obvious problems with it, an email should be sent to that student immediately alerting them of the problem, so they can change it
before it’s too late.

2. Make the minimum requirements for each individual GE category add up to the total of 45 they need. That’s such a no brainer.

So my advice to some students that are planning on graduating soon is to apply as early as you can and make sure to talk with your advisor ahead of time to make sure your degree audit is problem-free before that.

I truly love it here at Eau Claire, but I don’t want to spend another grand to be here longer than I have to — and you shouldn’t have to, either.