Archive for Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Credit hour increase draws criticism

March 13, 2002


Want instant attention from some Kansas University seniors? Tell them they're going to need an extra semester to graduate.

The Kansas Board of Regents is set Thursday to discuss a plan that could require some students to stay longer at state universities.

Not surprisingly, the idea is drawing flak from KU students and some faculty, too. The University Council at KU is protesting the plan approved by the regents in November, but only now beginning to sink in.

The plan requires students to complete 54 credit hours of upper-division courses before graduating. The current requirement is only 40 hours.

"(The Board of Regents) is concerned about quality and the control they have with us and the other regents institutions," said Tom Beisecker, communications professor and University Council president. "It was a solution they thought was nice, quick and convenient. And when you begin to unravel it, it's none of those."

Regents decided to require 54 hours of upper-division courses, which are 300-level classes and above. As it stands, the plan will affect freshmen beginning fall 2003.

"They passed it without asking for or allowing floor comment at the meeting," Beisecker said.

KU's University Council on Thursday approved a report that will be presented to the regents this week.

Among the concerns:

l Requiring more upper-division credits will discourage students from taking a broader range of introductory-level courses.

l It would punish students who decide to switch majors.

l It would limit the courses students take at community colleges, since only some of those courses would be prerequisites for upper-division courses at universities.

l It would increase the student-to-teacher ratio in junior and senior courses.

"There are little things like that we can't foresee right now," Beisecker said. "We don't think they're educationally defensible."

Hardest-hit programs

At least some KU administrators are joining the University Council in its criticism of the policy. James Carothers, interim associate provost, told KU Senate Executive Committee members this week he thought the plan "could keep hundreds, if not thousands, of students in school for an extra semester with no real academic purpose."

The hardest-hit programs at KU would be the bachelor's degree of arts in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Fine Arts.

The CLAS major has 69 hours of lower-division requirements. Add 54 hours of upper-division credits, and a student has only one spare credit hour to take other courses, since most programs require 124 hours to graduate. Beisecker said they'll be forced to stay longer at KU if they want to take other courses.

The fine arts major has 90 hours of lower-division requirements. Add another 54 upper-division hours  instead of the current 40  and students will have to spent an extra semester at KU.

Other programs, including business, engineering and journalism, won't be affected much, Beisecker said.

Beisecker said 75 percent of students who graduated last year with 129 total credit hours or less didn't meet the 54 credit-hour requirement.

Regents open to change

University Council members are pushing the regents to consider changing the plan to 45 hours. Kansas State University's faculty governance suggested retaining the current policy, with 60 hours required from a four-year institution and 40 of them from upper-division courses.

Several regents said they'd consider a change.

"It was an effort to simplify the policy," Regent Jack Wempe, Lyons, said. "There are always ramifications. We're certainly not inflexible. I think we want to work with the academic people, and we were hopeful they'd come back to us with some recommendations on it if needed."

Regent Fred Kerr, Pratt, said he'd also be willing to change the requirement. But he said the basic goal was good.

"It was a reaction to the concern about slippage in quality in the baccalaureate degree," he said. "If this 54-hour policy will really hurt students and make it more difficult for students to finish a baccalaureate degree in four years, that's not one of the goals I wanted to accomplish."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.