Lowering of overload threshold is raising questions

by Sam Roeber | Staff Writer

It’s not typical for college students to care so much about a change that encourages them to take fewer classes. Yet, Whitworth’s recent move to lower the overload threshold from 17 credits to 16 has been met with questions from students who are concerned that their ability to graduate on time has been jeopardized.

For sophomore Issac McDonald, a newly minted accounting major, the lowered credit maximum worries him.

“In essence, I’m worried that reaching my required 150 credits to sit for CPA exam will now be even more challenging than it already was going to be,” McDonald said.

Under the new semester maximum, the total number of credits a student could complete in four years without overloading is 148, including the 5-credit Jan Term maximum.

For students with the same concerns as McDonald, there is no need to worry according to Provost and Executive Vice President Carol Simon, Ph.D.

“If [a student] has an academic plan in place that is premised on the ability to take 17 credits a semester, they will be able to fill for a waiver of the [overload] fee, and should be successful in doing that,” Simon said. 

On Feb. 11, a document titled, “Frequently Asked Questions about Lowering the Overload Fee Threshold” was emailed to all students by Vice President and Dean of Student Life Rhosetta Rhodes. In this document were the answers to many of the questions that arose when the change was announced to the student body by Rhodes at an ASWU meeting on Feb. 5. 

For students who are wondering about graduation, the fifth question directly addresses this issue. It states, “There will be a process for currently enrolled students to request a waiver for overload fees they might incur in order to complete their existing academic plans by their expected graduation date.”

Additionally, there are already certain types of classes—such as student leadership, media, athletics and performing arts— that are already granted an automatic overload waiver and will not put students over the maximum credit load. 

“The university, in terms of stewardship, is always trying to balance the question of fairness, while also balancing what facilitates educational benefits to students,” Simon said. “The courses on the list are on there because of the collective benefit to everyone on campus, and for the culture on campus.”

This change will be put into effect at the start of the Fall 2020 semester, according to the FAQ document. The details regarding  alterations to different classes—in particular the Core program—should be taken into account by students as they are scheduling classes in the future. 

Regarding the changes to the Core program, Simon said, “It’s really on the basis of [the Core faculty] thinking that this would be educationally beneficial for students.”

Much is still to be found out as these changes become permanent soon. But, the most important thing Whitworth leadership said it wishes for students is that they have peace of mind about their classes, their graduation and their academic future.

“This feels like a big thing because it’s different,” Simon said, “but if a student feels like this is causing stress or impeding their academic plan, then I would encourage them to sit down with their advisor and work through the change.”

For more information about graduation requirements, go to http://catalog.whitworth.edu/academicinformation/graduationinformation/.