Board of Trustees to vote on lowering graduation requirements


Next weekend, the Augustana Board of Trustees will vote on a faculty-approved measure to lower the number of credit hours required to graduate from 130 to 124.

The change comes in the midst of a trend among both public and private institutions, according to registrar Joni Krueger. Public schools in both South Dakota and surrounding states moved requirements from 128 to 120 in the past few years, and the University of Sioux Falls implemented a new 124-hour requirement this fall. This trend makes Augustana, with a current 130-hour requirement, one of the highest in the region.

According to president Rob Oliver, these region-wide changes were brought to the college’s attention last year. He said not only did research show Augustana’s credit requirement as much higher than other schools, but also prospective students came concerned about graduating on time – a fear often fueled by other schools’ admission staffs.

“We believe the product we have is a high quality product and that it should be, but at the same time we don’t want to position ourselves so we’re not competitive,” Oliver said.

Oliver said the changes to the credit requirement at other colleges could possibly be an attempt to improve their four-year graduation rates, which are generally lower than private liberal arts schools like Augustana.

“I’m sure that’s not the most compelling reason, to be more like us, but you can’t help but notice that when we’re in our chair,” Oliver said.

A 124-credit hour minimum will make it possible for every student to graduate in four years if they choose, but Oliver does not see that happening.

“We don’t believe that by lowering requirements we’ll lower the value of our degree, because our students already take more classes anyway,” Oliver said, adding that 85 percent of students take more credits than required.

Krueger confirms this, saying that out of the last 500 students that spent all four years here, only 74 took exactly 130 hours. In other words, 426 graduated with more, a statistic that Oliver does not expect to change.

“Our students come here and they take classes and they discover what great opportunities there are out there, so they enroll in more classes,” Oliver said.

Senior Matt Anderson, the Augustana Student Association president, agrees the quality of education will keep students taking more classes despite the new minimum requirement.

“We have incredible faculty here, and they inspire students to take advantage of their time at Augie,” Anderson said. “Why not take as many classes as you can while you are here?”

Oliver expects the board to approve the new requirement during its next meeting. If the changes are approved, the new credit requirements will go into effect starting with the graduating class of 2015.

The school will have the remainder of this academic year to decide from where the hours will be taken. According to Oliver, changes would most likely affect only electives, and general education and major requirements will remain the same.

Anderson said he believes students should also “play a vital role” in attracting prospective students.

“I would challenge students to tell others about their experiences here, and encourage prospective students to check out what we have to offer,” Anderson said.