Stressing the stressed

As the university continues to evolve, so to do its policies and systems. One of the more recent changes to Virginia Wesleyan was addition of a new general studies system that seems rely heavily on preparing underclassmen early on for the difficult classes of later years.  The new general studies system brings with it many positives and one very interesting negative: the requirement that freshmen take Winter Session courses during their first year.

Of all Virginia Wesleyan’s bright ideas, this one is by far the most intriguing and I am very curious to understand why they thought this was a good idea.  It would have been one thing to require incoming classes to take a winter session at some point during their time here, but to require it for their first year makes no sense.

Honestly, it seems a little unfair to the freshmen because they are deprived of their first major break.  Winter break, if you do not take winter session, is six weeks in total and most freshmen probably want to go home.  Now I know I cannot speak for all freshmen, but I remember during my first year, I could not wait to go home to enjoy a six-week break.

The biggest issue with this new policy is the financial strain in puts on freshman families.  Affording the usual fall and spring terms is challenging enough, but adding almost another $1000 makes it that much more difficult.  Virginia Wesleyan University is a school that is well-known for its high tuition rates. I am sure the powers that be probably find some way to justify the high costs of academics here at VWU, but that does not mean we, the students, must accept it.

I have heard many stories already in the last month and a half about freshmen dropping out or transferring due to the Winter Session requirement and the financial strain it puts on the students’ accounts.  With this new policy, we run the risk of severely harming our yearly retention rates. I have also heard that the freshmen were not made completely aware of this new policy until the summertime, after they applied and were accepted.  It is important that we make incoming students aware of such requirements. Some people probably believe that the incoming students should make themselves aware of such policies by researching new policies and requirements thoroughly.  However, the stress of starting college normally makes the freshmen forget about researching such things.

Just recently, I was informed that apparently Virginia Wesleyan required wInter session many years ago, but the policy was eventually changed.  The big rumor going around right now is that the administration brought back the policy as a means to improve Virginia Wesleyan’s retention numbers.  To me, this reasoning is counter-productive and makes no sense. Between the financial strain it puts on freshmen and the loss of their first major break, what is to be gained by this policy?  

Virginia Wesleyan University is a place that I, myself, have come to love during the last few years.  I understand that the school will change as it enters it future, but I believe we should consider reviewing our academic policies.  If not that, then we at least need to keep the students as well as any incoming students updated on policy changes or additions so they can plan accordingly.  Being a college student is stressful enough without odd academic requirements.

Jonathan Joyner