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Hard cap established for credit hours per semester

By Andrew Ta     4/4/13 7:00pm


It is no longer possible to take more than 24 credit hours in a single semester. In order to save the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates time and open up spaces in courses that would otherwise be closed because they were dropped after the add deadline, requests for enrolling in over 24 credit hours will automatically be denied, according to Speaker of the Faculty Senate Peter Caldwell.

Previously, anyone registering for more than 20 credit hours in one semester would need to fill out a petition for registration overload and consult with the Office of Academic Advising, according to the Rice website.

"I believe that this is a relatively minor change," Caldwell said. "The new policy only changes [the] situation slightly. Not many students actually seek to enroll in more than 24 hours for a semester, and [Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson] turns a lot of these down."

According to Registrar David Tenney, in the last five years, an average of two students a semester were approved to take over 24 credit hours.

Caldwell said the new limitation is designed to discourage students from over-enrolling and locking up course spots from others.

"Students are able to over-enroll as part of their normal shopping process with permission from the Dean of Undergraduates and lock up courses, only dropping them after the add deadline has passed," Caldwell said. 

Other universities discourage over-enrolling by charging extra for additional credit hours, a practice Rice does not engage in, Caldwell said.

"Rice differs from most other schools in providing very few disincentives for enrolling in more than 18 hours of classwork for a semester," Caldwell said. "Other universities charge by the credit hour or indicate if a student has withdrawn from a course on the transcript; Rice does neither."

A limit of 24 credit hours will not solve the problem of overcrowded courses, but the Faculty Senate hopes it will help, Caldwell said.

"We have certain areas which are under great demand [with] certain classes [that] people can't get into," Caldwell said. "When you have that much shopping at Rice, but an add deadline at the second week, people can't get into those classes. The new waitlist system is pretty effective, but the problem hasn't gone away."

Tenney said the policy was primarily proposed by Hutchinson and Associate Dean of Undergraduates and Director of Academic Advising Brian Gibson.

"[They] brought this to the [University Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum] two to three months ago," Tenney said. "That committee, which consists of faculty and students, endorsed this and forwarded it to [the] Faculty Senate, who approved the hard cap at its last Senate meeting. A tweak in text will be submitted to Rice's General Announcements for this fall."

Caldwell said the conversation on over-enrollment, shopping and overcrowded courses would continue.

"Any discussion that takes place will have student input," Caldwell said. "The Faculty Senate can see problems but can't see all of the unintended consequences."

McMurtry College senior Michael Apolinario said the hard cap seemed superfluous since it affected so few people.

"There have been two semesters where I had to take over 20 hours," Apolinario said. "I only know of two people who have [more than 20] hours in a semester. Most people I know try to stay below 15, so I think people like me and those two guys are more in the minority."

Brown College senior Ben Ong said he thought tuition money drove the new policy.

"Some people really overload and leave Rice in [two] years," Ong said. "Not with a good GPA, of course, but nonetheless, [two] years and a Rice degree."

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