Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) 43rd Conference
March 15-17, 2018
Title: The Effects of Complex Course Requirements on Student Major Choice
Authors: Rachel Baker, Nick Huntington-Klein
In order to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, students must first determine which classes they must take in order to satisfy the requirements of their major. These requirements are often complex and difficult to comprehend, leading to some policy interventions that aim to reduce complexity by increasing the amount of student guidance in course choice, or by reducing the amount of complexity-increasing choice. We perform two student preference experiments on students at two large four-year universities to determine how students might respond to increasing guidance or reduced choice in their course-taking options. We find that students do not respond strongly to increases in guidance, but strongly reject a reduction in options, even when given a rationale. These results suggest that increased-guidance policies have some avenues to operate in without student pushback, but that strong reductions in choice are unlikely to be popular.