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Why Do I Have to Take THAT Class?

General education requirements are a basic element of almost any accredited degree in America. They're so common that you may have never heard the long-held reasons that keep "gen-eds" a part of the college experience. 

Lauren Lenger, an academic advising coordinator in Columbia College's School of Business, sees the required classes as half exploration and half career-booster. 

"General education is designed to introduce students to areas and ideas they may not be familiar with while also building the basic skills necessary to be successful in their academic and professional careers," Lenger said. 

Required classes provide a baseline of what a college graduate, regardless of major, will have studied. This is helpful for graduate programs and employers who are looking for well-rounded candidates. No matter the topic, general education classes promote the essential reasoning skills of clear communication, critical thinking and problem-solving. 

While lower level math and science classes are important general education requirements, liberal arts colleges, like Columbia College, emphasize humanities, arts, social sciences and languages. These topics relate to the original meaning of the word "liberal." As traced back by Merriam-Webster, the word "liberal" in liberal arts does not refer to political opinions, but comes from a Latin root that means freedom. In Roman society, to study subjects not tied to immediate survival was the luxury of a free person. 

One of the more noble missions of higher education also comes into play with general education classes, according to Lenger. 

"By expanding [students'] knowledge base, we are creating well-rounded individuals, and hopefully good citizens."

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