By Erica Quinones
A new credit overload charge was announced at the SGA’s March 9 Senate meeting. The policy will go into effect during the fall 2021 semester, only applying to incoming freshmen and the following classes.
According to Interim Dean and Provost Dr. Michael Harvey, the credit overload charge will affect incoming students who take over 20 credits a semester. For each credit over 20 that a student takes, they will be charged a $1500 fee.
The 20-credit threshold applies to each semester individually; so, if a student took a 20-credit fall semester and then attended the Cuba trip over winter break, they would not be charged for the overload.
If a student took 20 course credits in a fall semester and added a two-credit internship that same semester, they would be charged an extra $3000 in total for those two extra credits.
The charge was initially to be rolled out in spring 2021, but it was postponed until fall 2021.
According to Dr. Harvey, when they initially shared the preliminary policy with the Student Government Association, it was met with concerns about the hardship such a charge could pose for students.
Part of the responsive policy adjustments included the aforementioned grandfathering of current students, meaning current students will not be affected by the credit overload charge.
Sophomore and Treasurer of the Class of 2023 Dylan Snow said the first time he heard of the policy, he was “enraged”; so, while he is “grateful they agreed to hold off on it for current students, I’m[he is] still upset because of the principle of it. There are so many classes and opportunities people would like to take that could be negatively impacted by this…It could limit student freedom and prevent students from taking advantage of all the education opportunities.”
The policy was further modified to create an exemption process for students who are required to take more than 20 credits in a semester.
While the exemptions will be given on a case-by-case basis, students who may be pushed over the threshold by student teaching or other required graduation courses may receive an exemption. If a student wanted to graduate early and thus was taking over 20 credits to do so, they might not be exempt.
Dr. Harvey also said that the number of students who would be affected by this policy could be small.
Current surveys show that around five percent of WC students take over 20 credits.
“While these policies make logistical sense, I feel that 20 credit hours is too low,” junior Kitri Post said. “20 credit hours…is a common workload for students hoping to finish their distribution and major requirements by the time of graduation, not to mention students with several majors and minors.”
Dr. Harvey also said that strong messaging and advising for future students can help prevent miscommunication around the policy and promote utilizing the summer and winter semesters for credit recovery.
However, there are still student concerns regarding how such a fee may affect students’ educational experimentation and freedom.
“Since I’ve been at WC, I’ve tried to take advantage of every opportunity I could. I’ve taken classes in all sorts of departments, I’ve done music and theatre, I’ve done Model UN, and I’ve had the freedom to do so,” Snow said. “I chose to go to WC because I was told I could ‘do me.’ Adding this fee could’ve discouraged me from getting involved.”
Post had similar concerns as Snow, saying that in her six semesters at WC, she took 20 or more credit hours during two of them.
Post said if a similar policy was in place during her WC career, she would not have pursued experiences like internships “for fearing of having to pay extra.”
While this policy is new for WC students, it is a relatively common policy for WC’s peer institutions, according to both Dr. Harvey and Vice President of Finance and Administration Laura Johnson.
According to Johnson, the idea of a credit overload charge first arose in 2018 after a benchmark analysis of peer institutions.
The analysis considered not only tuition and housing, but fees, in which the credit overload charge appeared.
They initially deferred a decision on adopting a credit overload charge policy until 2020 when they conducted a similar analysis, during which “course overload popped up again, like from every surface,” according to Johnson.
The College decided it was time to implement a credit overcharge fee policy; however, the plan was further deferred to fiscal year 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated burdens.
“We certainly should have done it in 2020, but…we can’t increase the burden to the student when COVID is here, and everything is changing,” Johnson said.
Despite the fee’s commonality amongst peer institutions, Snow said that “if I wanted to go to another school, I would’ve.”
“I came [to WC] for the freedom and opportunities I was promised here, and I feel like it’s a broken promise,” Snow said.
While the policy will officially be in place in fall 2021, it will not be rigid, according to Dr. Harvey.
WC will review how the policy affects students next semester and beyond to “see if, all in all, it is a positive to keep in place, or if tweaks are needed,” Dr. Harvey said.
“We’re always balancing what’s right for our students versus what’s appropriate for the institution. So, we always have that in the back of our minds. We’re making sure that our students have what they need in order to have a successful career here at WC,” Johnson said.
Featured Photo Caption: A new credit overcharge fee is being applied to incoming classes. The charge will affect every credit students take past the 20-credit threshold. While the charge will not affect current students, many expressed concern that the charge will hinder future students’ academic exploration. Elm File Photo.