Student Preference for Guidance and Complexity in College Major Requirements


Rachel Baker


Nick Huntington-Klein

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In order to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, students must determine which classes they must take in order to satisfy the requirements of their major. These requirements are often complex and difficult to comprehend, leading to some policy interventions that aim to reduce complexity by either increasing the amount of student guidance in course choice or by reducing the amount of complexity-increasing choice. We perform two student preference experiments on students at two large four-year universities to determine how students might respond to increasing guidance or reduced choice in their course-taking options. We find that students do not respond strongly to increases in guidance such as grouping courses into meaningful categories or removing cross-cutting requirements, but strongly reject a reduction in options, even when given a rationale for the reduction. These results suggest that increased-guidance policies have some avenues to operate in without student push-back, but that strong reductions in choice are unlikely to be popular.

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APA Citation

Baker, R. & Huntington-Klein, N. (2018). Student Preference for Guidance and Complexity in College Major Requirements.