When students register for courses in the next few weeks, it will be the last registration that they are restricted to 17 credit hours. The next time students race to register for courses, they will be able to take an 18th credit completely free of charge. But this decision may have unintended consequences.
At the recommendation of the Student Association, the Board of Trustees approved a resolution allowing students to take an 18th credit that will be included in their tuition. While this is a great development that will limit the financial burden placed on students who want to expand their course load, it is essential that GW continues to vet who is taking an 18th credit and help ensure that this decision is a sound academic and personal choice for each individual.
Most students take about 15 credits per semester, which translates into five three-credit classes. For students who opt to take 18 credits, the workload is more time-consuming and the stress levels of taking six classes rather than five is clear. To be considered a full-time student, individuals must take at least 12 credits and anything fewer is considered part-time enrollment, which is not eligible for financial aid.
Taking an 18th credit previously required approval from an academic adviser and tacked on a fee of $1,500 to a student’s tuition. When the new policy is implemented in the fall, students will be able to choose 18 credits worth of classes without supervision included in the price of tuition.
Students were previously required to submit a form and report their grades to take an 18th credit. This system was designed to ensure that students who were already struggling academically could be stopped by advisers before taking on extra work that would likely overwhelm them and further their academic decline. Without oversight, students are able to take the 18th credit free of charge and free of academic support.
For students to truly benefit from a free 18th credit, GW must reinstate some sort of the review process for taking 18 credit hours of work.
The lack of supervision when taking on an 18th credit could lead to students enrolling in an extra class for all the wrong reasons. With GW’s cost of attendance rising so high, many may seek to graduate early by loading their schedule with six classes, potentially saving thousands of dollars. While that may be cost effective, it will lead to students burning out quickly or not getting to fully develop during their college years as they are intended to.
GW’s competitive atmosphere – as shown by its infamous “internship culture” – will likely pressure students to overload themselves academically now that they have the option to take an 18th credit in order to keep up. Now that this credit is free, it will become the standard for students rather than an extra academic challenge.
Some students may prioritize saving time and money over saving their academic record. But graduating a year early with the help of an 18th credit while toting a terrible GPA is not a worthy trade.
If students are required to get approval before enrolling in a sixth class or 18th credit, they will make sure they make an informed decision and not succumb to the pressure of another course. While this extra step might seem tedious to students who are capable of taking 18 credits, it is essential that advising departments in all schools at GW continue to vet the students who seek to take 18 credits and help them in the process so they can achieve academic success.
GW has a responsibility to monitor the number of courses students select just as it has a responsibility to monitor the content of the courses they select. As GW prepares to allow students to take 18 credit hours in the fall, the University must create a system for advising students who opt to take a heavier course load to continue to fulfill its quintessential responsibility to ensure the academic and overall prosperity of the student body.
Jack Murphy, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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