GW needs to clearly disclose consortium courses to students

Many students have been in a situation where they can’t find the class they want at GW. The system of consortium courses, which allows students take classes at other universities, is one of the added benefits of going to school in D.C. and a way for students to find the exact class they want elsewhere. But not enough students know how to do so and because of that, very few actually end up taking advantage of these courses during their time at GW.

GW is one of 17 colleges that are a part of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, where undergraduate and graduate students can enroll in different courses at 11 local universities. The consortium includes American University, Georgetown University, Howard University, the University of Maryland, George Mason University and 12 other schools in the DMV area. Being a part of the consortium gives students access to many courses that aren’t offered at GW.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo Shwetha Srinivasan

Despite having the chance to sign up for classes in many of these colleges in the District, most students don’t end up taking them. And there is one main reason for that. Due to lack of information and clarity from GW on the consortium courses available and how to register for such courses, most students don’t benefit from being part of a consortium. To make consortium courses more accessible, GW should include information about all those courses on the schedule of classes.

Currently, there is no single database where students can find information on the list of courses available at other universities. The consortium website only links to each school’s own schedule of classes, so students have to check out what courses are available and see if they are eligible to sign up for these courses themselves. GW, like all other colleges in the consortium, has certain requirements for students enrolling in consortium classes. According to the GW registrar, students can only register for six credits of consortium courses per semester and cannot register for online, study abroad or independent study courses in the consortium institution. Furthermore, students cannot enroll or receive consortium credit for courses that are already offered at GW. Since GW won’t approve courses that students can already easily take here, it eliminates most low-level courses such as introductory sociology or American politics classes. As a result, it allows students to register for more niche, specific classes that aren’t offered at the University.

But it is hard to tell what courses students can actually register for in the consortium. I can speak on this from personal experience because I unsuccessfully tried to register for a consortium course at the start of this semester. As a student majoring in international affairs with an interest in South Asia, I wanted to take more classes on the region and the consortium gave me an opportunity to do that. I went to a few Universities’ schedules of classes to check if they had courses on South Asia that weren’t offered at GW. Since Georgetown offered courses on South Asia that weren’t available at GW, I was hoping to enroll in consortium courses there. But when I reached out to a professor at Georgetown asking about possibly enrolling in the course, I found out that it was actually a graduate-level course and Georgetown had a policy of not allowing undergraduates to enroll in these courses. That information wasn’t easily available to me. In another instance, one course was offered at Georgetown’s Qatar campus. Although I wish I could go to Qatar to take this, that’s not a possibility. This misunderstanding stemmed from my lack of knowledge about how Georgetown codes its courses. I wasn’t aware that a certain code meant that the course was taught in Qatar, and that their coding for undergraduate and graduate courses was different from GW’s. In such a situation, it would’ve been helpful to know what courses are eligible for consortium registration.

While academic advisers should be able to answer general questions about the consortium, they don’t and can’t be expected to know such specific information about each consortium school either. There are many students like me that are looking for courses that GW doesn’t offer, and they are missing out on an opportunity to find them.

To make it easier for students to access and learn about available consortium courses, GW should add a section on consortium courses to its schedule of classes. This would bring all details about consortium courses eligible for enrollment under one umbrella. The University could advertise this initiative as an option for students during registration time. American and Catholic universities already have something similar, where students can browse for courses at other colleges under its schedule of classes. The consortium courses are listed as a separate category. For example, at American, there is a separate subject that mentions Georgetown or GW. It also goes on to give information on whether the courses are undergraduate or graduate courses. Of course, undertaking this initiative would require considerable coordination and collaboration. But the initial challenges of setting up this system would lead to a long-term solution that would encourage more students to take up consortium classes. At the very least, GW should start off by providing information on consortium courses at colleges closest to GW such as American, Georgetown and Catholic universities.

Consortium courses can significantly enhance one’s college experience and allow students to utilize all the academic resources right here in the DMV area. The University must do more to ensure students aren’t deprived of the chance to make the most of what the consortium has to offer.

Shwetha Srinivasan, a senior double-majoring in international affairs and economics, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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