Taskforce examining switch to four-credit classes

A University taskforce is beginning to evaluate the feasibility of changing GW’s credit structure to a four by four system-four classes for four credits.

A typical student’s schedule now consists of five classes for three credits each. Donald Lehman, executive vice president of Academic Affairs, announced the creation of the taskforce at the last Faculty Senate meeting, on April 8. Lehman could not be reached for comment this week.

“At this point, we have only individual notions, no data-driven conclusions,” Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning and special projects, wrote in an e-mail. Linebaugh declined to elaborate because the issue is in the early stages of consideration.

Faculty Senate President Arthur Wilmarth said he anticipates the taskforce to file a report in late summer or early fall.

“I had the notion they are more than exploring,” Wlimarth said.

This is not the first time University has looked into altering the credit structure to a four by four system. In fall 2003, administrators flirted with the idea of creating a mandatory summer session for rising juniors as well as changing to a four by four credit system for the fall and spring semesters to utilize campus resources year-round. Faculty dissent led administrators to shelve the idea. The University also created a taskforce last fall to evaluate how to make GW’s summer programs more attractive to students.

A summer session is not on the table this time around, Wilmarth said.

“It is too early to tell how faculty will receive it,” Wilmarth said. “It will take careful review. There are plenty of potential concerns of the faculty over trickage concerning courses.”

A four by four system would help the University concentrate resources and save money, officials have said in the past. Proponents of the change say that fewer classes for more credits would allow students to explore issues more in-depth.

Robert Dunn, a member of the task force and an economics professor, declined to comment on the matter to avoid “prejudging” the issue.

Some students said they are opposed to changing the course structure to a four by four system because they would not be able to take as many classes.

“I like having the opportunity to take a variety of classes. There are so many classes to choose from already and I don’t have enough time to take them all,” freshman Liesl Grebenstein said.

Sophomore Margaux Untracht said students would have trouble fulfilling all of their general curriculum requirements if they only took four classes each semester. The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the largest undergraduate school, requires that students take about 15 classes to fulfill general curriculum requirements.

“The school has to realize that they will have to change the GCRs because it is very hard to fill them, especially in CCAS,” Untracht said. Other students said they are concerned that they will not be receiving as many educational opportunities for their tuition money.

“If the University doesn’t lower tuition for less classes, it’s unfair for them to charge us the same amount when we are using less classroom space and fewer professors,” freshman Andrew Edward Silvia said. “It’s just another way for the school to make money at the detriment of students. I’m sure if you want to take five classes they will charge you more and that’s practically a tuition increase.”

Freshman Audrey Levandowski said she would support a change to the credit system.

“When you take five classes, there is always that one class that gets neglected,” she said. “Now students would be able to focus on classes more.”

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