Come the 2018-19 school year, students interested in taking more than 17 credits will no longer have to wait two weeks from the start of classes to enroll in all of their classes.
“Right now, when you register for classes the first two weeks [after the enrollment term begins] the credit limit is 17,” USG Vice President of Academic Affairs Nicole Olakkengil said. “The Friday before classes start, the credit limit increases to 19 and then the week of classes, on that Wednesday, the credit limit increases to 23 if you have a GPA of 3.0 and above.”
Next semester, the limit will be increased the day before classes begin. Those with a GPA below 3.0 will be able to take up to 20 credits and those with a 3.0 and above will be able to take 23. The one stipulation is that students with a 3.0 or above GPA must be in good academic standing (i.e., they may not have a “Q” for academic dishonesty on their transcript, or an “I,” for incomplete, from the prior term).
For students who balance multiple majors, single majors with minors and/or a hefty course load supplemented with work and familial obligations, this credit change means having a set schedule earlier in the semester. It also means removing some of the stress that comes with enrollment each term and preventing students from missing as many days of classes as they may previously have had to.
“Starting the Fall 2018 semester, you will be able to actually pick a course based on what you like, instead of fighting for credits,” Olakkengil, who has been lobbying for the policy change, said. With the help of Richard J. Gatteau, Ph.D., associate provost for academic success and faculty director for the Higher Education Administration Program, Olakkengil managed to push the policy forward and get it approved by the Office of the Registrar.
“When I was running for USG last spring, my platform was to only have double majors be able to bypass the credit limit without any bureaucracy in filling out paperwork. After speaking with Dr. Gatteau, I realized this was counterintuitive because it placed an unfair bias on double majors,” Olakkengil said.
Gatteau explained that in addition to wanting a level playing field, a logistical concern warranted equal access to the new policy.
“If this was an advantage given only to double majors, you may have people declaring double majors just to get the credits for advanced registration where they don’t intend to complete them,” Gatteau said. “For me, I thought from a fairness standpoint, give the opportunity to everybody. You could have somebody in a major and two minors. There could be other reasons – their work schedules and commuting, where they need to be in certain times and classes.”
Fatema Noor, a junior biology and sociology double major at Stony Brook, said she has faced difficulty fitting the required classes into her schedule before. Not only does she have two majors to worry about, but like all students, she has to fulfill her Stony Brook Curriculum requirements. Starting out with a 17-credit limit, she said, is fair, but having to wait two weeks until the limit increases and in the meantime struggling to find a two-credit class or miss days, is no easy feat.
“In previous semesters, I had to swap major classes that I knew would not fill up; I had to let go of them to pick something else up,” Noor said. “But it also kind of put stress on me, what if I didn’t get that seat?”
Olakkengil, a junior biochemistry and sociology major, has a similar story.
“The problem is, my two majors really have two different course requirements, and you end up having to choose which course you take based on the credit limit – like which one is more important?” she said. “It sucks placing an importance on a course, because that course may be valuable to you in another way, but the problem is you have to put that importance on it if you want to graduation in time, in four years. Increasing the credit limit actually helps with this.”
Olakkengil credits Gatteau, USG President Ayyan Zubair and her peers for helping move the project along.
Advanced registration will function as it currently does, with seniors enrolling first, followed by juniors, sophomores and freshmen. New students will be kept at a 17-credit limit throughout their first semester, Gatteau said, so as to curb the number of students enrolling in more classes than they can handle.
“The average credit count for most of our students is about 15-16 credits,” Gatteau said, “but some students will take so many credits that they’ll sacrifice their GPA. We don’t want them to do that. The goal is to take the amount of credits that will maintain the GPA.” He added that typically, students enrolled in above 19 credits have a number of those credits dedicated to internships, research and/or independent study.
“So few students ever take even beyond 20 or 21 credits, but again the option is there if you can handle it. We don’t say no to that.” Gatteau, who helped institute the current policy at the university years ago, said an important factor to keep into account is the registration of nearly 4,000 new students each year. “We have to make sure everyone has a chance to register,” he said.
“I am just always very focused on, you know, let’s do what makes sense so that operationally, students don’t have to jump through an unnecessary hurdle to get to what they think is reasonable,” Gatteau said.
Specific enrollment dates for the Fall 2018 will be published on the academic calendar in early March.