Science Majors Take Issue with New Credit System

Duncan Standish, Staff Writer

Beginning next semester, Oberlin will institute a new credit system which aims to streamline credit values by designating courses either “full” or “half” credit. Though administrators say the changes will benefit College students, some students —particularly those within the natural sciences — are apprehensive about the changes.

Under the current system, everyone must register for 12 credits to be considered a full-time student. If someone registers for more than 16 credits — or 17 for double-degree students — they must pay extra. In order to obtain the 112 credits necessary for graduation, students must take on average 14 credits each semester. Classes are given credit according to their relative workload or the number of hours spent in the classroom.

These features of the old system, according to Joyce Babyak, associate dean of the College, have consistently caused many students to run into trouble staying between the credit floor and ceiling. Students with four three-credit, heavy-workload classes often have to add more than they want to. And students taking classes with higher credit values, like introductory language classes, can’t fit in everything they’re looking for.

“[The new system] will help students focus their education experience, and make it easier for students to build the semester schedule that they want, so they can meet their academic objectives,” said Babyak. “We want students to be able to build their schedules knowing that they can sign up for a minimum of four full-credit courses each semester and that they won’t have to cast about for additional credit.”

In addition, Babyak said that there will be a “wider window” for fitting in courses. Students will be able to take four and a half courses without a fee, five without a fee but with special permission, and five and a half with a fee and permission.

Despite the systems benefits, many students majoring in the natural sciences believe it will ultimately increase their workload. This is because the credit value of many separate lab sessions, often taken in tandem with a main course, will be absorbed into the new full-credit status of the main course.

Anna Aronowitz and Mirelle Thaler, two College juniors majoring in Biology, said the new credit system is hampering their plans to be part-time students during their last semester, a time they both planned to use to study for the MCAT. Both have taken their complaints to the administration and have had their cases resolved by a committee, but Aronowitz remains anxious for other natural science majors.

“The natural science majors that aren’t mad about it are the ones that don’t really know what’s going on,” said Aronowitz. She urged the administrators designing the system to take a step back and consider the system’s impact across the natural science departments.

Thaler remained optimistic toward resolving potential conflicts.

“Hopefully the process [of reviewing records] will just get easier as the committees get more practice and start to see more uniform results,” she said.

Babyak encouraged students to approach the administration with their concerns, but also said many natural science majors have actually found themselves better off than they had expected. The new system, she said, will have lasting and positive change for all Oberlin students.

“Although the original design was to benefit Arts & Sciences students,” said Babyak, “It’s a change that, in some respects, works for all our students at Oberlin, both College and Conservatory.”