Getting Pre-requisites Right - Economics and the LDTP

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The California State University (CSU) system has created a lower division transfer pattern (LDTP) in order to simplify California Community College transfer requirements. There may be merit in such an endeavor. However, one new mandate being pushed under the LDTP is an Intermediate Algebra pre-requisite for Introductory Economics courses for Economics and Business majors. Courses without the Algebra pre-requisite will no longer be transferable to CSUs that adopt this requirement. Only a few have done so at this date but it seems that more are likely to adopt this requirement. Here is a summary of the arguments against this proposal.

Elementary (Basic) Algebra: Linear equations, linear inequalities, graphs, linear systems, operations on quadratics, factoring, and proportional reasoning. (From Foothill College Online Catalog)

Intermediate Algebra: Linear, quadratic, polynomial, rational, radical, exponential and logarithmic functions and expressions with an emphasis on graphing and applications. (From Foothill College Online Catalog)

  • Whereas, the purpose of pre-requisites is to ensure incoming students have sufficient skills to succeed in the course;
  • Whereas, unnecessarily high pre-requisites creates an unneeded barrier to entry;
  • Whereas, an unnecessarily high pre-requisite means we will lose students who would have discovered an interest in economics only after taking the introductory course;
  • Whereas, an unnecessarily high pre-requisite may particularly mean a decline in enrollments of minorities and females;
  • Whereas, Introductory Economics textbooks do not typically employ math beyond basic algebra;
  • Whereas, most instructors believe economic principles can be clearly explained and understood using basic algebra only;
  • Whereas, given the above, claims that courses that do not employ Intermediate Algebra have been “dumbed down” are unsubstantiated;
  • Whereas, if a minority of instructors believe Intermediate Algebra is essential to teach Introductory Economics it should not be the case that this minority is able to force 100% of instructors to adhere to their pedagogy;
  • Whereas, the CSU desire to ensure success in Intermediate courses can be directly achieved through appropriate pre-requisites on Intermediate courses;
  • Whereas, since this requirement only applies to CSU-bound Economic and Business majors - community colleges will be forced to create and administer a two-track system of economic principles at great cost in time and resources;
  • Whereas, a two-track system will create confusion as most students do not know in advance to which four year school they will transfer and in which major;
  • Whereas, a two-track system will create waste when lower-track students later decide to major in Economics of Business at a CSU only to find they must repeat a potentially identical course that has the appropriate pre-requisite;
  • Whereas, some community colleges will be forced to cancel some classes as their enrollment will not support a two-track system;

Resolved, an Intermediate Algebra pre-requisite is the wrong pre-requisite for Introductory Economics. The LDTP should withdraw this mandate as soon as possible.

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