Editorial: New credit system, new problems

The university recently made the decision to change its current credit system to a standardized, credit-hour system, as described in an Oct. 3 Daily article. Under the current system, a student could theoretically graduate with less than the 120 semester hour units required by the U.S. Department of Education to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. For this reason, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges requested that Tufts change its system.

The current credit system was implemented in the 1970s to uphold the “residential model” of a traditional liberal arts university. This liberal arts tradition supports the notion that there is value to all courses of study. However, the new credit-hour system could be a step back from these values. Under the new system, some courses may be worth five or more credit-hours (depending on the amount of class time and independent work assigned), while some may only be worth one or two. Given the definition of a credit-hour, it is most likely that lab sciences will be worth more credits than others. This could lead to a major shift from the core beliefs of a liberal arts college.

Despite this ideological shift arising from the new credit system, some defend the new approach based on its practical advantages. One may argue, for example, that the new system will make the process of transferring credits and applying to graduate schools simpler because the credit-hour system is relatively standardized throughout the United States.

Others argue that the new system will provide more guidance for students when registering for classes. Because a credit-hour defines the amount of time a student should spend on a class, a student may have a better idea of how busy their semester will be at registration. These hours are calculated on presumed time spent on a class, however, and may not be an accurate representation of an individual student’s time management skills.

There are additional practical disadvantages to this new system that students at Tufts should take into consideration as well. One of the primary issues with the credit-hour approach is the fact that classes worth more credit-hours will weigh more heavily on GPA. Students, particularly first-years, may be more hesitant to take introductory lab-science classes, for example, because the classes could have a large negative impact on their GPA.

Furthermore, it is worrisome to consider how the Tufts administration will manage the students who matriculated at Tufts prior to Fall 2018 when this new system is implemented. Under the current system, students can graduate with fewer hours than those required by the credit-hour system; there is also no accurate way of knowing exactly how many credit-hours the classes currently offered are worth. Due to both of these complicating factors, it is possible that students may need to load on extra courses or even extend their time at Tufts to make up for lost credit.

While the university claims to be actively developing a petition process for those whose timely graduation may be impeded by such obstacles, the exact guidelines for this petition have not yet been made available to students. Regardless of whether or not a retroactive petition is available, students who matriculated under the current system will be impacted by the transition in one way or another.
One possible solution would be to allow the classes which matriculated under the current credit system (2019-2021) to graduate under the same system, instead of requiring the complicated shift to credit-hours. This would simply mean maintaining the current credit values for these three classes to adhere to through their graduations. Because the university explicitly assures that the degree requirements under which these three classes matriculated will remain the same through graduation, they should also be able to ensure that their original credit values will be maintained.

For these reasons, it is imperative that students and administration alike begin to think about the new credit-hour system and the large impact it could have on students’ future time at Tufts.

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