Rationale & Ideas From Other Institutions
A liberal arts degree is intended to develop students into well-rounded individuals who can succeed in their personal, professional, and public lives. NWC’s mission discusses preparing students for both a “successful career” and “leading a faithful life.” A number of higher education institutions are updating their general education requirements and the desired outcomes of those requirements to ensure the skills and abilities requisite to succeed in the world of today and tomorrow are among those being developed or strengthened. NWC has begun exploring how to integrate digital literacy into the curriculum. Other outcomes which NWC should consider explicitly including in the NWCore Goals and Core curriculum include:
Financial and Economic Literacy
A hallmark of a well-education person should be the ability to make informed financial decisions. However, NWC graduating seniors reported personal finance as the area in which they felt they were most lacking as they left NWC. This is concerning as NWC 2018 graduates who accepted loans in their aid package have approximately $31,000 in loans on average, which equates to monthly payments of approximately $330 on a 10-year standard repayment plan. The average starting salary of NWC’s 2018 graduates was $39,500, indicating that roughly 13% of their monthly take home pay will go towards loan repayment. NWC’s three-year Student Loan Cohort Default Rate, while still below the national average, has been higher than usual the last few years.
Forbes notes that personal finances are a concern for the public arena – relating to the common good – as “personal financial issues can quickly become bigger problems for local and national economic growth.” In addition, it is likely many NWC students share this thought from a student at Texas A&M. He asks, “If university education is going to saddle us with years of debt, can it at least come with an instruction manual?”Relatedly, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni report states “informed citizenship in the 21st century requires instruction in economic principles and the fundamentals of the marketplace.”
The University of Montana requires completion of an online financial education module, which covers topics such as student loan default prevention, investing, and mortgages, to promote students making “informed financial choices and tak[ing] action to improve their present and long-term financial well-being.” The University of Pittsburg’s Grad Ready online tutorial must be completed the first term a student enrolls.
Some NWC students participate in an interactive Thrive workshop focused on financial literacy, which is one of the highest rated workshops in regard to students learning something new and providing advice that helps students adjust to college life. However, the workshop is one of several students can select among and is able to provide only 50 minutes or less of instruction on financial success in college. A financial and economic literacy requirement could focus on post-college financial success and include topic such as mortgages, investments, debt payments, workplace benefits, annual percent rates, inflation, term vs life insurance, etc. NWC would best promote ‘student success’ and enable students to live “a balanced and whole life in obedience to God’ by further developing students’ financial and economic literacy.
Promoting Productive Intergroup Relations
The espoused values and policy beliefs of persons in the U.S. have seemingly become so divided that CNN’s Carol Costello recently suggested that college students “study abroad, domestically.” Several higher education institutions, such as Hamilton College, St. Edward’s University and UCLA, have responded to this climate by adding or strengthening a diversity and inclusion focus within their general education curriculum. Some institutions have realized that curricula in cross-cultural engagement, while imperative, is not enough; The University of Colorado requires diversity curriculum in two areas – United States perspectives and global perspectives. The Diversity in the Curriculum committee at Carthage College suggested that diversity coursework includes components that support the learning outcome of developing “an understanding of the contexts and perspectives of non-dominant cultures in the U.S.”
Adding anti-bias, social justice, or a similar type of requirement to the curriculum could help NWC with the strategic plan goal of embracing and celebrating cultural and ethnic diversity, especially as it looks to increase enrollment through outreach to Hispanic communities. Furthermore, a course similar to the University of Michigan’s “Intergroup Relations, Conflict and Community, which “teaches students how to address constructively conflicts that arise among and within different groups and explores the possibility for building community across racial and ethnic boundaries” would help NWC graduates as they pursue God’s redeeming work in the world. Similarly, the University of Maryland’s requirement provides “training in practical ways of dealing with human difference…”
Suggestions for Northwestern
NWC should consider updating the goals of the NWCore and ensure the development of these critical knowledge areas are woven into the curriculum as are speaking and writing or are a required component of a degree as is the case with chapel credits. In the earlier case, these skills can be woven into existing general education courses in mathematics, history, political science, sociology, or psychology. In the latter case, these skills can be developed through completion of required co-curricular programming, potentially created by the Office of Student Programs and Intercultural Development.
Goal 4.1 – Embody our Vision for Diversity through culturally responsive pedagogy and curricular developments that consider race within the drama of God’s reconciliation of all things in Christ.
Goal 4.4 – Address issues of campus climate and commitment to ethnic and racial diversity to advance students’ intercultural learning (and achieve student engagement survey rankings similar to our peer institutions).