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Freedom to learn: Why Rice should not impose lower credit hour limits

By Alexia Rauen and Suzie Meling     3/27/16 11:50am

Shopping might be our favorite sport, but we don't want to have to shop for our classes. The new proposal by the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum to change both the drop deadlines and permitted number of credit hours will cause irrevocable and extensive damages to the academic experiences of many Rice students. Furthermore, the suggested change will inevitably hinder the diversity of educational opportunities available to students if implemented. Our testimonials below illustrate that this credit hour cap limit would impede our academic aspirations.

Alexia, triple majoring in Latin American Studies, Economics and Policy Studies

Despite creating a color-coded excel spreadsheet detailing my plan for triple majoring, I am always apprehensive of curveballs that could be thrown my way by classes not offered or abroad credits that don’t transfer. I have two years left and am deeply concerned that this proposed change (possibly implemented in fall 2016) may affect my academic future, as I have considered taking over 18 hours in upcoming semesters and wish to keep this as an option. In order to complete my three majors, I may have to exceed an 18-hour limit for at least one semester. It would devastate me to lose a major because I could not take one or two classes.

One of the things I love most about Rice is that classes are diverse both in academic interest and course credit. For example, I am enrolled in a publishing masterclass which exposes me to an industry I have always wanted to explore, as well as a business workshop for humanities students that offers insight into how to utilize my humanities major in my future career. If I had taken a course that included a lab, I would have had to sacrifice one of my one-credit-hour classes. I could potentially still attend those classes with the instructor’s permission, but is it fair to remove the credit the student would receive under the old system? Is it fair that a student with a full 18-hour schedule needing an LPAP could be forced to drop a class to accommodate a university-imposed requirement? I appreciate the opportunities for academic growth provided by my ability to take classes outside of my major, and I do not wish for this to change with an 18-hour cap.

Suzie, double majoring in Economics and Sociology as a D1 athlete

I discovered my interest in economics as a sophomore, so I did not begin working toward my economics degree until this time. Consequently, I need to take a higher number of credit hours in my following semesters to complete both degrees in four years. For example, I am in 19 credit hours this semester. I was able to add a second major relatively late because I had the freedom to take a higher number of credit hours to accommodate my second degree.

Had there been an 18-credit hour per semester limit, I might not have been able to make this decision as freely because it would’ve forced me to take an extra semester or summer classes in order to graduate on time. These options would have come with an added financial cost that might have swayed my decision. If I hadn’t been able to pursue a double major, my academic experience at Rice would not be as beneficial.

When this proposal is considered in conjunction with recent tuition increases, one can’t help but wonder whether or not a financial motivation is present in the discussion of limiting the number of hours students can enroll in. Is it really beneficial to financially and academically limit students who wish to take a higher number of credit hours?

Academic advising as the solution

Rice students are autonomous adults who do not require such extensive micromanaging that further constrains their possible academic schedules. Balancing athletic, academic and working schedules has simply developed our time management skills without hindering our ability to socialize with our peers. We believe this proposal is simply an instance in which decision-makers have underestimated the abilities of Rice students. Academics at Rice can become extremely strenuous and students can get in over their heads, but negotiating these stresses is a job for the supportive resources available to students, like the phenomenal team of academic advisors that we have on campus at students’ disposal. The real issue is the prevailing obliviousness to the academic resources available to students and the subsequent failure to utilize them appropriately. We suggest the administration consider how to increase student awareness about the highly trained professionals always available to assist them. One of us recently informed a freshman about the sheer existence of Academic Advising Center and personally escorted him there. More Rice students should be, but are not, aware of this resource.

Unrestrained wisdom

Rice is exceptional for its commitment to academic diversity and accommodation. A reform like this one shifts the direction of the university toward limitation. We are here to take classes in order to learn from our professors and peers. Students should not be subject to an 18 hour limit or a 21 hour definitive maximum. If Rice wishes to maintain its status as an elite institution, it should take into account the intellectual curiosity, dedication and diversity of academic pursuits of Rice students.

We agree with the Thresher Editorial Board that the appeals process must be reformed and there should be no firm maximum. But we, the authors of this piece, are soundly against this proposed change to the credit hours students are available to take. Let students embrace the academic possibilities that make Rice exceptional and let them only be limited by their academic appetite.

Alexia Rauen, Wiess College ‘18, and Suzie Meling, Will Rice College ‘17

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