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CSU to lower math requirements for some majors

Intermediate algebra will be replaced with prerequisites for non-STEM majors.

Mac Walby, Managing Editor

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This story was updated on August 20, 2017

The Cal State University system announced intermediate algebra will be removed as a graduation requirement for non-STEM majors.

“We’re not eliminating the math requirements in the CSU,” Christine Mallon, assistant vice chancellor of academic programs and faculty development at CSU, told EdSource. “We are removing the explicit intermediate algebra prerequisite from CSU [general education] math.”

The move, which will take effect in Fall 2018, is the start of a larger conversation going on around the country while educators and administrators try to find a way to better prepare students for the workforce.

“What this does is gives students more flexibility, more choices about a particular GE course they want to take so that they can take a course that fits their major and their career aspirations,” Mallon said.

Only 48 percent of students who enter the California Community College system leave with a degree, according to a report released last month by the Foundation for California Community Colleges. Some have placed blame on these math requirements as a cause. Lowering the requirement could not only help students at city colleges make their way to the CSU system, but enable more students to finish their degrees.

“This is a civil rights issue, but this is also something that plagues all Americans, particularly low-income Americans,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California community college system. “If you think about all the underemployed or unemployed Americans in this country who cannot connect to a job in this economy, the biggest barrier for them is this algebra requirement. It’s what has kept them from achieving a credential.”

Requirements will still include three years of Common Core math classes, two of which must be in algebra. The change will make it so students don’t have to retake these math classes at the CSU level.

“We’re certainly not saying that we’re going to commit students to lower levels of math or different kinds of math,” Oakley went on to say. “What we’re saying is we want more students to have math skills that allow them to keep moving forward.”

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