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College credit cap strangles schedules

THE ISIS man's electronic voice and his closed courses have been replaced by another, silent annoyance for College students registering for classes on-line. It's the red, capital letter message at the bottom of the window that reads: "You have exceeded the maximum number of credits. Course not added." It's likely to have popped up on a screen near you -- possibly destroying your plans for next semester's schedule. The College's policy of prohibiting students from registering for more than 15 credit hours is flawed and should be ended.

Implemented for the first time in the fall during registration for this semester, the credit limit is an attempt to rectify several problems, but is a poor solution. As College Registrar Judith G. Updike explained in an interview, the purpose of the restriction is "so everybody gets a chance." The policy is designed to leave more classes open for students who register later.

The restriction accomplishes this goal, but at the expense of students who have served their semesters registering at the tail end and now deserve to take the classes they want. For fourth-year students, it may be their last chance to take a course, and they shouldn't have to give that space over to a first-year student registering at a later date.

No other school in the University has implemented this restriction, which shows that there is an underlying problem in the College. Updike asserts that it certainly is harder to enroll in desired College classes than ones in any other school. The registration policy is a feeble attempt to quell complaints that there are too few College classes and that they are too hard to get into. This should be solved by hiring more professors in popular College departments, not by encouraging students to take fewer classes.

The credit restriction hurts those who are high achievers, those who want to take 18 upper-level credits. It hurts Echols scholars, and although most people probably aren't too sad about that, the fact remains that they are guaranteed the privilege of registering first.

More fundamentally, the credit limit hurts the average student who wants to take four three-credit classes and one four-credit class. The total would be 16 credits, but since this is impermissible, the student is forced to remain at 12 or 13 credits. A simple solution to this problem would be to limit students to five classes rather than 15 credits.

Another argument expressed for credit limits is to prevent a student who registers early from "holding" a course for a student who registers later. After registration time is over, the first student would drop the course and the second simultaneously would enroll in it, effectively thwarting the system.

"Hoarding," as Updike termed it, was more widespread when students could sign up to audit any number of classes and then pass them off to others. Now audited classes count as credits just like any other. The problem still remained, however, because students could enroll in 18 credits with the intent to only take 15. This practice was widespread in the days before the new 15-credit restriction, and it speaks again to the dearth of College courses.

But "hoarding" hasn't been stopped for good: Students can still dodge the rules if they get Rodman scholars (or any Engineering school students who sign up early), instead of Echols scholars (or College students who sign up early), to hold their classes. Again, there is a simple alternate solution: Once a course is full on ISIS, it should be closed permanently and the professor should form a waiting list. That way, "holding" a course won't do much good; instead, only interested students who have contacted the professor will get to enroll.

This credit policy tries to prevent bending registration rules at the expense of those students who want to sign up for more than 15 credit hours for themselves. Students should be allowed to enroll in six classes, attend them at the beginning of the semester, and then be able to drop one if they don't like it. The restriction effectively takes away this shopping period, and students' freedom along with it.

While College students will have the opportunity in August to register for more than 15 credits, by this time it is unlikely that the classes they want will be open. Every student in the University will have been able to register by that time, and all that will be left to a fourth-year student are the classes he took his first semester.

The worst part is, Updike says that "more than likely" the credit restriction will be permanent. This means that the University doesn't consider the policy to be an interim solution until the College can hire more professors. Instead, the University will be content to pretend it has solved the course crunch without adding classes or professors.

Full-time students at the University pay tuition by the semester, not by the credit. Many want to get their money's worth by taking lots of credits -- in classes that interest them, the classes that fill quickly. More important than money is experience. The chance to learn about this interesting subject, to have a seminar with that fantastic professor -- these are priceless opportunities. A credit restriction should not be allowed to take them away.

(Jennifer Schaum is a Cavalier Daily Opinion editor.)

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