Yudof supports minimum course load, stirs debate

by Justin Ware

University President Mark Yudof sent a memorandum to college deans last week, supporting a 13-credit minimum for students each semester to keep them from dropping out or hindering the University’s lagging graduation rates.

Yudof’s memorandum comes in response to the University’s low six-year graduation rate, currently at 51 percent. The institution’s graduation rate ranks last in U.S. News and World Report’s top 50 public institutions.

According to the recommendation, students would have to get an approval from their college to take fewer than 13 credits.

“Working, per se, should not be grounds for an exception,” the memorandum said. “It would only be situations where students need to work a significant number of hours due to financial hardships that would qualify.”

Dan Gallaher, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the College of Human Ecology, said the idea of college approval for part-time students is still being discussed.

Gallaher said he understands students need time for jobs, but taking six or more years to graduate hurts students. Many students who go more than six years never complete their education.

“It’s a tragedy to put this much time and effort in not to graduate,” he said.

Gallaher said the University’s main concern with low graduation rates is helping students.

“(The college approval requirement) is not because of the University’s ranking, it is because (taking more than six years to graduate) is bad for the students,” he said.

Minnesota Student Association President Dan Kelly – a member of The Minnesota Daily’s Board of Directors – said the University should take more responsibility to help students graduate on time instead of placing the responsibility solely on students.

MSA responded to Yudof’s memorandum Tuesday, citing five areas in which the University could improve to help students, including financial aid, advising and faculty engagement with students.

Kelly said increasing the number of financial aid office employees would ease some of the pressures college students face.

“I think it’s hard to study not knowing if you’re going to get a check to pay rent the next day,” he said.

Kelly said students’ academic progress also concerns him: “If people are forced to take extra credits, are they going to be able to perform?”

Chris Ernt, an Institute of Technology sophomore, said he dropped a class because it didn’t fit his major plans and hurt his other classes.

“It was taking too much time,” he said.

Ernt said he understands the University’s concerns with low graduation rates but said the system needs to be flexible.

“Right now, I’m not quite sure if my major is what I want,” Ernt said. “People who are in my position shouldn’t be forced into putting that much money into something that isn’t going to affect their life.”

Steve Yussen, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, said faculty and students need to take measures to raise low graduation rates.

“I absolutely agree with the concern that as we change the culture for students, we have to change everybody’s attitude along the way,” Yussen said.

Kelly said the lack of decision-making power students have in these policies concerns him.

“It’s surprising to me this is being done at the college level,” he said.

Kelly said he would like voting on issues, such as graduation rate improvement measures, to take place in the University Senate – a student and faculty governing body.

“If they are sharing that burden equally between students and staff, I’m not hearing it,” he said.