The political science department recently changed its bachelor of arts degree requirements, cutting the number of credits needed to graduate by almost half. This change, as explained by department faculty, is meant to give students more flexibility over their studies, but students who declared their major prior to this semester are not allowed to follow the new requirements.
With a decrease of 24 credits, students could graduate one to two semesters earlier than before, which would allow them to save a significant amount of time and money. As a sophomore who already declared my major last year, I would appreciate the opportunity to graduate earlier and have more choice in the courses I take. Students who already declared their major should be allowed to switch to these new requirements, because otherwise, it is unfair and places an unnecessary financial burden on them.
Students who declared their major early should not be punished for their proactivity. They should be allowed to either follow the new requirements under their current major declaration or redeclare their major, but both of these options are not allowed. Sophomores who could have waited until this year to declare, but chose to declare last year, now cannot take back their decision and need to complete the old number of credits. But those students are well within the allowed time range to declare a major and shouldn’t be at a disadvantage compared to their peers who haven’t declared a major.
Students are told when they declare their major that they will be expected to follow the requirements in place at the time they declare. But they usually acknowledge and agree to this because they are told it is meant to protect them from having to complete more courses in the future if requirements increase. When requirements decrease, this rule might still make sense if it was only reduced by a few credits, which may only equate to one class. But a decrease of nearly 30 credits renders these guidelines unreasonable. Holding students to the requirements in place when they declared is doing more to hurt them than help them.
In general, the number of credits students need to take is undeniably connected to the cost of their education. If students started college with AP or IB credits, they could fulfill the new credit and course requirements and complete their degree in one to two semesters less, which would significantly decrease the amount they have to pay in tuition, housing and dining. They could save tens of thousands – maybe even hundreds of thousands – of dollars by following these new requirements, so they should be given the opportunity to do so.
Beyond its tangible effects on time and money, restricting students from following the new requirements does not grant them the same flexibility and choice promised to students following the new requirements. Department faculty said under the new requirements, students would be able to pick more electives they prefer and have more choice in picking classes. College is a time when students often seek out new academic opportunities, which is particularly important in a largely research-based field like political science. A lighter course load could also allow them to explore internships and other extracurriculars in public policy that they wouldn’t otherwise pursue with a heavy workload. Students who already declared should be afforded that same opportunity. If the new requirements were created with the intention of helping students, all students deserve to enjoy that benefit.
Not allowing all students to follow these new requirements is problematic no matter the major or number of students enrolled in that major. But it is especially an issue when political science is one of the most popular majors at the University, and hundreds of students are affected by this decision. A large portion of the University could benefit from a small change that allows them to follow the new requirements, decrease their course load and graduate early.
With new degree requirements in place, students who already declared their major should be allowed to follow them. Not allowing this is unfair and could force students to pay substantially higher costs than necessary.
Laya Reddy, a sophomore majoring in political science and music, is a columnist.
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