Credit changes quietly take effect

Along with lauded changes to the campus infrastructure and the addition of new buildings, other changes have silently taken effect. Beginning Spring 2019, the student academic credit policy will change.

According to the new general policy, available online and in the student catalog, day students may take up to 18 credits each fall or spring semester. A day student may only take more than 18 credits with the permission of the faculty advisor and the Provost. A day student enrolled in more than 18 credits at the conclusion of the drop/add week will be considered in “overload” and will be charged $1,500 for each credit hour over 18 credit hours.

Credits earned for courses taken during Winter session will no longer count toward the credit hour cap, although they will still be recognized on the student’s academic record. Additionally, service courses between one and four credits will not apply toward the credit hour cap.

The old policy allowed students to take up to 20 credits hours during the fall or spring semester without incurring overcharge fees, although no student was allowed to exceed 38 total credit hours for the total academic year (including fall semester, winter session, and spring semester). Service course credits did not count toward the maximum credit cap. The overcharge fee was the same with the old policy.

Students who preregistered this semester for more than 18 hours in the spring are grandfathered into the old credit policy and will not be charged overage fees.

Senior Madalyn Chevalier said she understood the administration’s desire to avoid overworked students, but emphatically stated that she did not agree with the administration’s decision not to notify students of the change. “We are adults and we should be involved [in these decisions] and know about things that affect us,” Chevalier said.

She was also disappointed that Winter Session would no longer be considered for the credit limit. “I feel like making something compulsory and then not making it worthy any credits seems kind of crappy,” Chevalier said.

Though some students are dismayed about the lack of notification or announcement, especially since the changes directly affect students, others were less concerned.

“I don’t know [how to feel about the changes] since I’m going to be a senior next year,” said Allison Brewer, a current junior majoring in Recreation and Leisure Studies. “I don’t think it really affects me so much because I’ve only got three semesters left.”

The changes may affect underclassmen more so than juniors and seniors, whose schedules may be more flexible as they near degree completion.

Originally, the policy was discussed last spring in 2018 and was to be implemented Fall 2018, but was pushed until Spring 2019 because of student preregistration. Despite this lengthy process and time for preparation, students received no notification of the changes, electronic or otherwise.

Only faculty advisors were sent an email from Provost and Vice President Timothy O’Rourke notifying them of the policy changes shortly before the Spring ‘19 advising week started.

VWU President Scott Miller directed comments to O’Rourke “due to the academic nature” of the article, according to Assistant Vice President for Marking and Communication Stephanie Smaglo.

Likewise, Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Moore directed comments to O’Rourke.

O’Rourke said that “everyone had fair notice” of the change, but later clarified that he “[could not] speak” to any notification outside of his office because he was unaware of what other emails may have been issued from different university offices.

In lieu of an official announcement, he mentioned that students should receive a green billing sheet that outlined charges for the upcoming academic year, which would include the change in credit allowances.

Retrospectively, O’Rourke said that “perhaps more should have been done,” and that the university strives to be transparent and address student concerns.

Student Government Association (SGA) President Taylor Major initially agreed to an interview, but did not respond to continued communication or requests for comment.

SGA Vice President Kathryn Grainer said she looked forward to reading the article, but that she “[didn’t] feel comfortable” talking about the issue since she had little knowledge of it, “especially since my position in the SGA implies proximity to the administration of Virginia Wesleyan.” She went on to state the following: “My lack of knowledge about any of the roll out of new policies may be just exactly what you’re going to prove in the article, but I would feel guilty if I took the place of someone who is actually knowledgeable on the subject and can give you a valuable perspective.”

Though Grainer declined an interview, her concerns about directing resources away from a student who may be more knowledgeable appear unfounded, as many students were unaware of the changes to the academic policy.

Before the email sent to advisors notifying them of the changes in credit policy, information about the changes appeared to be initially restricted to the executive administration.

O’Rourke said that there were “different ways of looking” at the new policy changes, but that “one way of looking at it is that a straightforward 18-hour rule is easy to understand, to impart to faculty and students, and [easy to] enforce.”

He clarified that the previous 38-hour rule “was a bit mysterious and could lead to a student’s inadvertently incurring an overage in credit hours.”

Additionally, he pointed out that a semester comprised of more than 18 credits would be an “extraordinarily demanding load.”

Mickella Rast