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Limits on credit hours proposed

By Abigail Panitz and Emily Abdow     2/23/16 8:21pm

A subcommittee within the Rice Committee for Undergraduate Curriculum has drafted several changes to the limitations on number of credit hours that undergraduates can registered for each semester, according to subcommittee member Dorin Azerad. If approved by Faculty Senate, starting in Fall 2016, freshmen would be able to register for a maximum of 17 credit hours, while transfer students, sophomores, juniors and seniors would be capped at 18 hours per semester, as opposed to the current limit of 20 hours for all students.

According to Azerad, students would still have a shopping period for exploring classes, as a third reform would allow students to register for up to 20 hours during the first week of classes. However, students would have to drop to 18 hours by the second week of classes. If students fail to drop to 18 hours, the last class they had registered for would be automatically dropped. She said the change could also open spaces in popular classes that other students could take.

The subcommittee also hopes to pass a proposal that would lower the petition limit to 21 hours, from the current limit of 24 hours.

Spencer Seballos, a Brown College Senior and one of two undergraduate representatives on the CUC, described the process as a way to encourage students to think more about course registration.

“[Taking more hours] can be permitted, but students just need to explain why they are doing it and how it fits in with their overall plans at Rice,” Seballos said. “[This helps] them think much more clearly about the class load they plan on taking at the beginning of the semester when they are registering for courses.”

Azerad, a McMurtry College senior, said she was asked to join the subcommittee because of her two years of experience as the student director for Peer Academic Advising.

“For the past two years, we’ve been making a greater push for the message from the O-Week PAAs that 15 credits is a healthy number to average your first year,” Azerad said. “[New students] assume that that message is directed to everyone else in the room except themselves because the majority of Rice students who come in were high-achieving in high school.”

Azerad described how Brian Gibson, an associate dean and former director of the Office of Academic Advising and member of the subcommittee provided data from the Consortium for Financing Higher Education, which is comprised of peer institutions including Columbia, Harvard and Duke.

“A lot of the students at our peer institutions, even those on the semester system, were taking fewer classes than Rice students,” Azerad said.

According to Azerad, the proposal for capping first-years at 17 credits is receiving support, but there has been more opposition regarding the 18 credit cap for all other students. However, only selective parts of the proposal could be implemented if necessary. Azerad noted concerns could arise because undergraduates pay tuition on a semester and not a credit hour basis, and also because some students aim to graduate in three years. She also cited opportunities such as externships, spring break trips and summer internships which require a minimal time commitment during the semester but could raise students to 20 hours and require petitioning.

“The way the overload petition stands now, it is nearly impossible to petition for an overload,” Azerad said. “But with the 17 or 18 credit hour cap, we would have to reevaluate the circumstances for granting overloads.”

The changes will be voted on later in the semester by the CUC. For now, the subcommittee is focused on gathering student feedback to ensure the proposals would help students to plan healthier academic schedules, while exploring all of the opportunities Rice has to offer.

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