The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday August 13th

University considers remedial course plan

Courses would replace intro-level math, English

With more students placing out of entry-level English courses, the University is looking to restructure a bedrock of its general requirements: 101 and 102 classes.

Bobbi Owen, senior associate dean for undergraduate education, said the University is considering a plan that would require all students to take at least one writing course, without the ability to place out.

The change comes in response to faculty concerns about the quality of student writing, even for students who place out of the introductory courses.

“Faculty find that (students) may not be able to do the writing required of them,” Owen said.

Under the current system, students may place out of one or both introductory English courses with test scores or prior credit. Since 1996, enrollment in English 101 has grown 18 percent as total freshman enrollment rose 20.8 percent during that time.

“We’re working on this proposal, and if it became a requirement for everybody then clearly writing in the disciplines would be important,” Owen said.

The proposal comes at a time when the University, eyeing a $3.7 billion state budget shortfall and imminent cuts, looks to preserve instructional quality and improve efficiency. But if classes were to be cut, officials said electives would be the first to go.

“It’s the electives, the enrichment courses where I think we will see more cuts,” Owen said. “The University has a responsibility to the students who come here to offer the classes they are required to have.”

Beverly Taylor, chairwoman of the English department, said course enrollment numbers in English 101 and 102 are slightly lower than the overall class growth because an increasing number of students place out.

In 2009-10, 2,397 students, or 60.5 percent of the freshman class, were exempted from 101 by test scores or academic credit. That same year 1,159 students, or about 29 percent of the class, tested out of both required English courses.

Taylor said she thinks it is important that all students receive instruction in writing, and that the new idea would accomplish that. But she admits the idea is still in its early phases and won’t begin next year.

“We need more planning,” she said.

All students are also required to fulfill a quantitative requirement, or math course, which they can do in a number of ways.

Compared with entry-level English courses, enrollment in MATH 110, which serves as a prerequisite but is not required, has seen rapid decline over the past 15 years. The mathematics department has no similar plans to date.

Since 1996, enrollment in the course has dropped 77 percent.

Mark McCombs, a senior lecturer in the math department who coordinates the course said changes in the University’s curriculum contributed to the decline.

“Given a choice, fewer people are going to take a college algebra course,” McCombs said. “Especially if it doesn’t count toward their math requirement.”

Owen said the SAT now gives a better indication of student performance so that fewer students need the entry-level course.

The mathematics department has decided that MATH 110 is only a useful prerequisite for some courses, she said.

“Why would math 110 be necessary,” she said, “if you are going to take symbolic logic or statistics?”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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