Curriculum Council revises credit hour capacities

Curriculum Council revises credit hour capacities
Photo by Christin Hume from Unsplash.

Starting spring 2024, students will be able to take up to 18 credit hours per semester and enroll in internships without a credit hour cap. However, those taking 095 courses will have to take them for credit. 

The changes to the credit hour caps come after the Curriculum Council approved a series of amendments in September 2023. Joni Krueger, registrar and assistant vice provost of academic affairs, presented the amendments to the council at its August 2023 meeting after researching the requirements at other universities.

“I dug in and looked a little bit more, and most schools I looked up were either 17 or 18 credit hours as their top cap, so I started asking questions like ‘Why is ours 16?’” Krueger said. 

Krueger said she could not find a good answer to her question. She observed that roughly half of the student body was taking extracurricular courses in athletics, theater, music ensembles and journalism for zero credit. 

“We decided this actually makes more sense to allow up to 18 [credit hours] and to have these extra things that were variable…now they just are only going to be for credit,” Krueger said. 

Previously, students could register for up to 17 credit hours without petitioning for a credit overload using the academic planner. However, if students registered for a 17th credit hour, a $610 overload fee was added to their billing statement. 

“We’re trying to take away unnecessary fees, and we’re trying to encourage students to get credit where credit is due,” Krueger said. 

Biology professor Alexander Kloth, a member of the Curriculum Council, said he believes these new amendments will acknowledge the realities of student extracurriculars. 

“It would be desirable for [students] to have additional credit to match number one, the amount of work that they’re putting in, but number two, the kind of commitment that’s expected of them,” Kloth said. 

Prior to the amendments’ approval, students could choose to take courses ending in 095 for one credit hour or no credit. These courses include journalism participation, music ensembles, intercollegiate athletics and theater backstage practicum. Starting this spring, students must take these courses for 1 credit. Private lessons, music courses ending in 161-167, also fall under this requirement.

According to accreditation standards, music ensembles and private music lessons are graded according to the standard letter grading system while athletics, journalism participation and theater practicum are scored according to S/U standards. In an S/U grading system, students need to maintain a C- or higher to pass the course satisfactorily. 

Students will not have to pay additional fees to take these courses. 

“There is zero difference in what a student pays from 12 to 18 credit hours,” Krueger said. “That amount is the same.” 

In recent years, some departments, like the School of Music, have seen students not take courses for credit in order to avoid the overload fees. 

Peter Folliard, dean of the School of Music, said taking the courses for zero credits is common among double and triple majors who enroll in 16 credit hours of classes but also have to take ensembles and lessons to satisfy their academic requirements. 

“In our music major, it’s required that students take lessons and ensemble for credit,” Folliard said. “There are times where we have to waive that requirement, which is associated with our accreditation,” Folliard said.  

Folliard said those students often feel overwhelmed throughout the semester.  

Junior Olivia Kern, a biology and music major, said she has had to take at least one ensemble or private lesson without credit every semester in order to escape the overload fee. 

“It was slightly frustrating because you’re putting in all the hours that it takes to be in a private studio, and you go to practice every day, but you're not seeing the result of that on your transcript,” Kern said. 

Taking a 095 course for no credit means students’ GPAs are not affected by their performance in the course. According to Folliard, students taking a course for no credit can have negative impacts on the course itself. 

“If you decide to not fully invest in the class, it has no impact on your GPA, and that has potential ramifications for de-investment in the commitment to whatever you’re taking for zero credit,” Folliard said. 

Other students, like sophomore Lindsey Young, a track and field and cross country athlete, will not be affected by the changes. 

“I’ve been fortunate enough to use [PE 095-L] as one credit towards my graduation every semester,” Young said. 

While Young has been able to take her 095 course for credit, she knows this option all depends on the flexibility of students’ schedules. 

“I know a few of my teammates have used the zero credit option for their sport,” Young said. “Track season is less demanding than cross country seasons, so they use zero credit in the spring and take harder classes. Based on just their schedules, that has worked for them.”

Internship credit will also undergo a change beginning spring 2024. Previously, only up to eight credit hours of an internship could be used towards the 124 credits required for graduation. Now, that cap has been waived. 

“More and more we have students with two or three majors, and often students want a different experiential learning opportunity. If they are limited to eight credits, they don’t necessarily get that opportunity,” Krueger said. 

Kloth believes the cap was a hindrance to students for whom internships are a necessary learning component. 

“It seemed like having a low kind of arbitrary credit limit would, in some ways, hamper those students, and so it didn’t make sense to me to have those,” Kloth said. 

As students begin to register for another semester, Kloth said he hopes they will not feel obligated to take 18 credit hours just because the credit limit allows them too. 

“We also don’t want y’all to put pressure on each other to try to cram your schedules full of stuff,” Kloth said. “Because in the end, sometimes taking too much stuff means you don’t do as well in any individual thing as you would ordinarily do.”

According to Krueger, the aim of the approved amendments is to allow students to use their 17th and 18th credits towards participation in their 095 courses or internships. 

“The whole idea is to kind of protect student time,” Krueger said. “Sometimes if students think about it that way, that helps them think about preserving time for the work that it takes to be involved in those things, as well as the rest of the classes they’re taking.”