A college campus should be a place of risk-taking and new ideas. That may be the case in the lecture hall or the research lab, but a more cautious outlook sometimes permeates the administrative offices.
Missouri Western State University’s leadership cast aside aversion to risk with its new approach to class scheduling, dubbed “Gold Fridays.” Starting in the fall of 2020, the university strives to hold most classes on Monday though Thursday.
Under what’s called flexible scheduling, Fridays are reserved for research, internships, volunteerism and other initiatives that align with Western’s role as an institution focused on applied learning opportunities.
Surely, the university’s administration knows this plan carries a risk of students using Fridays to catch up on Netflix or nurse hangovers, but recent enrollment trends show that it is time try something new.
The university’s undergraduate enrollment dropped 6 percent in the fall, including 12 percent for the freshman class. It might not be a blip, with projections showing a thinning pool of college-age students across the country. Western, to its credit, decided to act.
Left unsaid is whether Missouri Western, faced with flat state revenue, also seeks a four-day schedule for financial reasons. Some K-through-12 school districts have experimented with that option.
But University President Matt Wilson, in a press release, said he views Gold Fridays as a potential recruiting tool and a means to retain more high-quality students.
“No other university in the area is doing anything like this,” Wilson, who took over as Western’s president in the summer, said. “I think prospective students will appreciate the innovative approach to providing learning opportunities outside the classroom.”
The university stresses that Fridays will not be considered a “day off” but a chance to enhance the learning that occurs in the classroom. In our view, it will only be successful if students take up the challenge to expand their university education in new ways.
Here, the university should see an opportunity for buy-in from one group that’s easily overlooked in this debate: parents.
Certainly, potential college students are the prime target when promoting the merits of the four-day schedule. Another benefit comes if parents view this change not as degrading higher education but as a means of using a practical, real-world approach to make students more employable after graduation.
A key goal of a college education is to get young people into the workplace rather than mom and dad’s basement. If a four-day schedule does that, then it’s something that deserves encouragement.