Time to hit the books

By Cara Donfrio

Students’ days are packed with homework, studying, exams, jobs and extra-curricular activities. They can’t wait to get a break, but soon many students may have even more to do.

The demand for highly skilled individuals is rapidly increasing, and NIU’s student requirements are following suit. Many departments are raising the GPA requirement for students trying to get into those departments. This occurrence is widespread, and department officials have different reasons for the increased expectations.

The Department of Elementary Education raised its requirements last year. Nina Dorsch, chair of the teaching and learning department, explained the reasons behind that decision. She said that state requirements for highly qualified teachers were becoming more strict, and NIU had to change the program to match.

With the new standard, students would only be accepted if the department could be certain that they would complete their education with the skills needed to be effective teachers.

“We want to be able to take for granted their content base,” Dorsch said of the students in the elementary education program.

This year, the GPA requirement for students in the department has been 3.0, up from 2.75. In addition, the three state tests that students need to take after graduating from the school have become more strict.

Dorsch said the Department of Special Education also may raise its requirements, but details aren’t clear yet.

NIU Vice Provost Robert Wheeler said that if the requirements for the special education department were raised, many students would be affected.

Students in the school of nursing also are feeling the effect of higher expectations as their GPA requirement increased from 2.25 to 2.5 last year.

Marilyn Stromborg, school of nursing chair, felt the increase was necessary.

“Almost all nursing programs in the state are at that level, if not higher,” she said. “One of our tasks is to protect the public.”

Stromborg said once a student graduates the program and passes the appropriate state tests, they are free to work on a hospital floor where many lives will be under their care. Because their work may mean life or death, the school of nursing wants to make certain that its graduates can successfully perform the tasks that they will be called upon to do.

Next semester, applicants to the school will have to meet new requirements in addition to the higher GPA. They must also be able to read at a 12th-grade level and have at least a ‘C’ in all prerequisites.

“We raised the bar,” Stromborg said.

The accountancy department is raising that bar even higher – from a 3.0 to a 3.2 GPA requirement starting next semester.

Gregory Carnes, accountancy department chair, said he wanted students in the program who would get the most out of it. He offered a question that he asked of students wanting to get into the program.

“Do they have the preparation they need to do well in the accountancy program?”

If they don’t, he reasoned, then they would not be accepted. This would not be done just to save time and effort, but also to save space. Carnes said seating for students in accountancy was limited, and therefore the number of students in the department had to be restricted. He stressed that he wanted the department of accountancy to give students a quality educational experience, and having a selective admissions process helped to provide this.

The department of accountancy is part of the College of Business, and that entire college will raise its GPA requirements to at least 2.75 in fall 2003. Carnes explained that the demand for business majors is high, and the accountancy department wants to be sure that its graduates meet the world’s growing business needs.

While increased requirements in NIU departments may mean more work for students, Stromborg didn’t feel that this was an unfair expectation. Rather, she felt that students appreciated the challenge.

“I think they have pride in completing such a rigorous program,” she said.