All Hail: The high cost of high achievers

The role of an academic institution is to encourage intellectual growth, but Northeastern discourages this by charging students interested in taking an overload class in additon to the four courses currently allowed.

At some universities, a full courseload consists of five three-credit courses, with the option to take another three-credit course at no additional cost, assuming certain requirements are met.

For example, Boston College, which maintains this more traditional five course, three-credit load permits a sixth course for no additional fee. The student must maintain a 3.0 GPA, and not take it as part of an accelerated degree program.

However, at Northeastern, the average full-time student takes four, four-credit courses per semester and occasionally one or two additional one-credit courses. Spread across an entire degree program, students graduating from BC will take 40 different courses, while NU grads will only take 32. This approach limits the breadth and variety of courses a student can take at Northeastern. Much of a student’s courseload now consists of core requirements and major courses.

That said, Northeastern students graduate with eight more credits than BC (128 to 120). A major benefit to this system is Northeastern provides more classroom instruction time per course. Naturally, this allows more professor-student interaction and is especially useful in large lectures where more students are able to ask questions.

According to the 2006-2007 rate, if a student wishes to take a fifth four-credit course, that student is assessed a fee of $935 per credit hour. Since students are already paying almost $15,000 per semester, this is certainly discouraging.

But, why not encourage students to explore other areas of study, as an academic institution should, by allowing them one additional course per semester?

Certainly, some restrictions would need to be established. These might include maintaining a minimum GPA or making the course an elective.

I realize this could be costly to Northeastern if all students took advantage of this option, with the added professors and infrastructure, but why not try it out by offering any courses which are not at full enrollment at the beginning of a semester?

This could more fully utilize Northeastern’s resources.

Or perhaps, offer additional credits above the 18 now allowed at a significantly discounted rate. If Northeastern is concerned about students graduating early, these courses could be taken on a pass/fail basis or not for credit.

This proposed system is similar to others at comparable universities.

For example, Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences has a similar setup to Northeastern’s with 128 credits required for a degree.

However, BU permits students to take an additional course with the following restrictions, according to the BU Student Handbook for 2006-2007.

“Students wishing to register for 19 or 20 credits, but not more than 20, may do so without prior College approval if they are in good academic standing and their faculty advisor approves. Additional tuition will be charged for all credits in excess of 18, except to students with a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher, or students in their senior year who have accumulated at least 88 credits. Additional tuition will be charged to all students for credits in excess of 20,” the handbook says.

So, with two comparable schools in size, location and tuition offering this same program, why do Northeastern students have to pay extra money to further their intellect?

– Brian Benson is a sophomore journalism major and member of the News staff.

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