Report: under new policy, first-years take more credits

First-year students at the University have higher credit loads, ACT scores and high school rankings than previous years’ first-year students, according to a University report released this week.

The average credit load for first-year students this year is 15.5, up from 15.3 last fall, according to the report by Institutional Research and Reporting. In fall 2001, before the University instituted a 13-credit policy, the average load for first-year students was 14.9 credits.

This year’s sophomores are also taking more credits than they did last year, said Craig Swan, economics professor and provost. Usually, students take their heaviest credit loads in their first year, he said.

“That helps to insure that students are on track to graduate on a timely basis, which is in their best interest,” Swan said.

The 13-credit policy, implemented last year, requires new students to pay for 13 credits even if they are taking fewer.

Under the policy, every credit after 13 is free, so students are probably more willing to take heavier course loads, Swan said.

Transfer students have also increased their credit loads in the last two years, Swan said.

In fall 2001, transfer students averaged 13 credits, while this fall’s new transfer students are taking an average of 15.6 credits.

Another positive change this year is first-year students’ academic achievements, Swan said.

The average high school percentile rank of first-year students on the Twin Cities campus was up to 79.9 this year from 77.8 last year.

The average ACT scores for first-year students have increased from 22.8 to 24.8 since 1990.

Physics professor Marvin Marshak said he has noticed a slight change from previous years in the quality of students in his introductory physics class. He said this year he did not have to send out any midterm alerts to students who were not doing well in his class.

“I didn’t have anybody to give a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ to,” Marshak said.

Other changes in the student population include more minority students and a lower percentage of international students.

Some University first-year students think higher credit loads will mean graduating on time.

First-year psychology student Alan Esser said he is taking 15 credits this semester, as his adviser suggested. He said he plans to take enough credits each semester to graduate in four years.

Another first-year student, Heather Lindholm, said the 13-credit policy made taking extra credits appealing.

“With the 13-credit band, why not take more credits?” Lindholm said.

For first-year pre-med student Sanida Xiong, taking 14 credits just seemed like it would be a manageable amount, she said.

“I’m just taking general courses, so I didn’t think it was going to be that hard,” Xiong said. “Since it’s my first year, I didn’t want to work or anything, so I had a lot of time on my hands.”

The Office of Institutional Research and Reporting releases its report during every fall, spring, summer session and intersession.