Credit-hour cap change elicits positive student and faculty reaction

Bruce Walton

After the Board of Trustees voted to extend the credit-hour cap from 16-credit hours to 18 at its June meeting, many students and faculty have reacted positively to the change.

Courtney O’Donnell, a senior integrated science major, said she feels relieved because the credit-hour cap was forcing her to pay extra to graduate on time.

O’Donnell’s program takes five years to finish, but with credits added from her post-secondary classes before enrolling at Kent State, she said she hoped to finish in four years to save money. O’Donnell was given no other choice but to pay more than $1,400 because of the credit-hour cap.

“For me, it made more sense to pay the extra fee,” she said. “It sucks, but it is what it is. Because otherwise, I figure I’m going to be paying it if I’m staying an extra semester, because if I’m staying an extra semester, I’m staying an extra year pretty much.”

Many students, like O’Donnell, find themselves in unique programs or double majors requiring more time and, in some cases, more money. In the past, these students had to decide if paying for extra credit hours each semester would be less than enrolling in another semester.

Since the cap’s inception, the campus has had a very low opinion of the fee, as there were protests and petitions to remove it from Kent State, including protests from the Ohio Student Association.

Daniel Kreap, a recent Kent State graduate and Kent Chapter OSA co-founder and former chair, said he disliked the credit-hour cap from its inception.

“When I first heard about the credit cap, I thought it was harmful to students because it kind of discourages learning, and the more and more I learned about the credit cap, the more and more disheartening it became,” he said.

With his leadership, the OSA began protesting and petitioning to stop the credit-hour cap.

Working with many organizations, primarily the Kent Socialist Collective and United Students Against Sweatshops, Kreap said the students kept the pressure on the administration to change the cap, something he said contributed to real change.

“I do think there was a lot of public outrage, but I also think that if there wasn’t consistent pressure to change it, I don’t think they would have changed it,” Kreap said.

In addition to the OSA and other organizations who helped, an unlikely partnership came among political organizations. This included the Kent State College Republicans and College Democrats.

Christian Pancake, a junior political science major and former president of the College Republicans, said he was glad the cap was lifted.

“I think it helps kids graduate on time, which is very important,” Pancake said. “You see a lot of fifth-year seniors that’s costing them a lot of money, and I think that there’s not a solution yet, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Hana Barkowitz, a freshman public relations major and president of the College Democrats, had a similar reaction toward the credit cap’s change.

Though the College Republicans and College Democrats don’t agree on a lot, Barkowitz said, lifting the credit hour cap has been something they have not only agreed on but worked together on in different meetings and dialogues in the past year.

“No one likes student debt,” she said. “No matter what political party you are (in), and we shouldn’t have as much as we do.”

The 16-credit hour cap also affected Kent State faculty as well. Programs such as those in the School of Music saw enrollment drop as soon as the cap was lowered two years ago.

Scott MacPherson, a music professor and director of choral activities, has been directing college choirs since 1985 and has been working at Kent State for 8 years. MacPherson said he is excited about the change in the credit-hour cap’s policy.

“We are delighted in the School of Music, and particularly the ensemble directors, that the credit cap of 16 credits (has) been moved back to 18,” he said.

When the cap moved to 16, MacPherson said the number of students in the ensemble program fell significantly. This was mostly because of the lack of involvement from non-music students who couldn’t afford to take extra credit hours outside of their graduation requirements.

Because of that, MacPherson said Kent State’s choral programs have not had many non-music students join, until this semester came around.

Even now, he said he has seen a big improvement in the number of non-music major students auditioning for ensembles.

It remains unclear how the university will make up the $3.1 million it is losing by eliminating the cap, but many, like Kreap, hope this elimination is the start of something better for students and the financial stress they face in paying for college.

“I definitely think it’s an important first step and a huge victory for now,” he said. “But it’s just the beginning to what we have to do to make college more affordable and accessible to students.”

 Bruce Walton is a senior reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].