The School of Communication was the first undergraduate school at Northwestern to lower its credit requirements, which students say will give them more academic flexibility.
The school dropped the number of credits needed to graduate from 45 to 42, said theater department chair Prof. Harvey Young. It made the change due to a recommendation from a University task force report released in January, said Young, who was a member of the task force.
Young said the reduction aims to strike a balance between academics and life outside the classroom.
“My hope is that it allows students to realize their full potential,” he said. “This includes taking classes, but also being actively involved in a number of extra-curriculars as well as co-curriculars, such as student performances, productions, athletics and more.”
Before the change was announced, Communication sophomore Amanda Xiang said she was thinking of adding a Kapnick Business Institutions Program minor to her communication studies and music double major. Xiang said she is more certain she will complete the minor now that she has fewer credits to do for her communication studies major.
However, Young said, having fewer requirements should not change the quality of the education students receive.
“Our goal is having this sense of balance without sacrificing the integrity of any single major,” he said. “The majors are strong, they remain strong, students aren’t missing out on things, and they can actually have a day where they can do other activities and get a full night’s sleep.”
Fewer mandatory classes within each major in the school can also allow students to study abroad or pursue additional majors and minors without worrying about credit count, Young said.
In addition to giving students more freedom in their academics, lowering credit requirements could also ease the financial burden faced by low-income students, said McCormick senior Steffany Bahamon, president of NU Quest Scholars Network. She said having fewer requirements means a better chance of graduating early.
“It’s going to be a very positive impact,” Bahamon said. “It will give students a little bit more freedom and flexibility with what to do with their financial aid. … You’re less likely to have to stay on additional quarters and take on additional loans.”
Bahamon added that this change could lower all students’ stress levels, which is a “major game-changer.”
Despite the positive impacts of the change, Communication senior Carmen Mackins said she does not think the School of Communication was the “most necessary” place to start making these changes.
“Out of all the majors in Northwestern, communication studies isn’t the most demanding time wise,” Mackins said. “We do have to write a lot of papers, and we do have a lot of projects to do, just like every other major. However, I would say it’s one of the least stressful majors at Northwestern.”
Mackins said she thinks McCormick should have been the first school to reduce credit requirements because she knows students who have had to take multiple challenging engineering courses every quarter during their time at NU.
The goal is to have all schools at NU reduce credit requirements, Young said. However, it is up to individual schools and departments to decide if and how they would like to approach this change, he said.
“What happens is, sometimes there can be inertia where people might be slow to embrace any sort of change, but when you get more people together in a room with a great idea, then it’s really easy to put this into place,” he said. “I’m optimistic this will occur across the university.”
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