Opinions: Degree Works is Confusing

I thought Degree Works would never let me down.

After all, it was the system I was referred to since freshman year to plan out classes and check degree progress. We were all taught how to use the system as freshmen, so that we could prepare for our class loads in the future. And I had no reason to distrust the system — it had worked every time before.

So it caught me off guard when Degree Works — which said I only needed nine credits of communication electives — said I still needed four more in addition to my current nine. Given the communication department’s preference for three-credit-hour courses, this was two more classes than I had originally planned.

My adviser was not well informed on how to resolve this situation. I was, in fact, the fourth student to come to him with this exact concern — and he still had students to meet with. He said it was likely because the credits required for the communication major had to be shifted after the department changed the capstone to two credits instead of four, but he had never been given the specifics on the change.

Upon examination of the catalog — admittedly an underutilized resource — I found the reason for the discrepancy. While there are 13 total credits needed, nine of those must be at the 300 level or higher, thus the confusing description on Degree Works. But this leaves me with another question — why is it 13 credits? Almost all of the classes in the major are three credit hours, meaning the student must either 15 credit hours, or find a way around the requirement, such as an extra practicum or a readings course.

The requirements for a student’s major are some of the most straightforward things an institution should provide its students. Students should never be left with uncertainties about their major requirements, as it is easily one of the most important factors in picking classes. In my case, I purposefully registered for a lighter load this semester, thinking I was closing in on my requirements — I certainly hadn’t planned on two or three extra classes this next semester.

What I’m saying is Truman State University needs to re-evaluate its methods of informing students about major requirements. Sure, the catalog does have some of this information, but that has rarely been an option suggested to students because we’re told to use those other two sources. This means many students often forget that it contains that information at all.

Clearly, some of this confusion is my own fault. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been made clearer or explained in more detail to me earlier, and it doesn’t mean I can’t warn those of you not graduating next semester to plan ahead. Don’t repeat my mistake — check with multiple sources and make sure you double check your math. You might just save yourself the headache later on.