Gates: Credit reduction can make less mean more


Matt Gates, Columnist

Northwestern students have a love-hate relationship with the quarter system. We can take a larger number of courses than we could at many other schools, allowing us to explore a breadth of subjects and complete second majors, minors and certificates more easily. However, we also find ourselves trapped in an unending cycle of “midterms” that start after only a few weeks of classes and does not stop until finals are readily approaching.

Although the fast pace of NU’s courses may be on par with that at other schools that are on the quarter system, the 45 credits required for graduation is not, in many cases. For instance, the University of Chicago only requires 42 credits to graduate. In last week’s Associated Student Government election, each campaign platform included a proposal to reduce the number of credits required to graduate. Several days before students voted, ASG Senate passed a resolution recommending the University take action to implement credit reduction.

Although NU students do benefit from the large number of courses they can take using the quarter system, credit reduction could epitomize the saying, “less is more.” In a highly driven culture like NU’s, it is vital that a reduction in the number of courses students take not be seen as a loss to their education or well-being. Fewer courses will mean more time to pour into other crucial areas of life, like extra-curricular activities, social life, employment and, of course, sleep.

Countless testimonies on a Tumblr titled “GUESS WHAT: We’ve Dropped Classes” show students found their lives were greatly improved by taking one fewer class. Meanwhile, data collected by ASG found students who dropped a class were likely to report being more able to focus on their physical and mental health and spend more time on other classes. Considering the recent conversations surrounding student health, this change could be extremely beneficial to NU students.

Moreover, taking more courses does not always equate to more learning. I believe I am not alone in observing how the unending string of midterms at NU can lead students down a cycle of cramming and memorizing information for exam day and then forgetting it all as they move on to the next week’s midterm.

Decreasing the number of credits required to graduate may also play a role in making NU more affordable. Provided that a student completes the University residence requirement, he or she can save money through early graduation. Currently, students might even choose to take five courses in one or multiple quarters in order to graduate early. Reducing the number of credits required to graduate might make this option more feasible.

Moreover, learning in college goes beyond the classroom, particularly in areas such as journalism and theater. As ASG’s Academic Committee noted, over a third of students spend more than 10 hours a week on extracurricular activities. Meanwhile, many students are employed, sometimes through work study, on top of taking classes. Taking fewer classes might enable students to spend more time learning outside the classroom.

I anticipate few students will look back wishing they had taken a couple more electives during their time at NU instead of socializing and learning outside the classroom. Credit reduction would be a step toward the goal espoused for NU students during Wildcat Welcome: Understanding an education goes beyond a degree, a transcript and a couple extra courses.

Matt Gates is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].