Administrators have rolled out three new academic policies intended to reduce course loads for Columbia College and School of General Studies students, Columbia College Dean James Valentini and Dean of Academic Planning and Administration Lisa Hollibaugh announced in an email Friday.
One policy will lower the number of credits students can take per semester, one will allow students to double count some courses across academic departments, and one will limit students to pursuing no more than two programs of study.
The first two policies were approved by the Committee on Instruction—which is responsible for all policy changes regarding majors, academic programming, and courses—last May, but are only now being implemented for next fall. The third policy limits students to two programs of study, which is defined as a major, concentration, or special concentration.
When the policies were first approved, the new credit cap had been undetermined, but administrators announced Friday that the cap will be lowered from 22 to 18.
In the email to students, Valentini and Hollibaugh wrote that the policies are intended to allow Columbia students to have a more well-rounded college experience. Students have cited high academic requirements as a contributor to stress culture on Columbia’s campus.
“[Committee members] feel that these updated policies will give you and your classmates the opportunity to participate in the other aspects of the Columbia College experience–whether co-curricular, social, or personal–that will be a significant part of your development as an undergraduate student,” Valentini and Hollibaugh wrote.
The email can be read in full below:
As you finish your finals, we write on behalf of the Columbia College and School of General Studies Committee on Instruction (COI) to let you know of some updated academic policies regarding the amount of coursework expected of students that will be put into effect when you return to campus in Fall 2017.
As you may know, the committee has been considering these changes for the past two years. In discussing these policies, members of the COI have consulted students, advisers, and other faculty colleagues; examined the policies of our peer institutions; and deeply considered the implications of various options. The committee members believe the updated policies enable all students to plan in ways that allow deep and thoughtful engagement in their academic pursuits, adequate time for extracurricular and co-curricular opportunities at the University, and a healthy and fulfilling undergraduate experience.
Below are the updated policies that will go into effect in Fall 2017. You will find a detailed explanation of the new policies on the Columbia College website.
A Columbia College student will be able to earn a maximum of 18 credits per semester.
A Columbia College student will be able to declare a maximum of two programs of study (a “program of study” being defined as a major, a concentration, or a special concentration).
A Columbia College student pursuing two programs of study may be able to count a limited number of courses toward both programs of study, commonly known as “double-counting”. (See the detailed policy page for more details regarding the double-counting of courses.)
Faculty members believe that these policies allow you to achieve the goals of a Columbia College education: a broad foundation in the liberal arts and sciences through the Core Curriculum, a deeper understanding of a field of study through a major or concentration, and an opportunity to explore additional areas of interest through elective coursework. They also feel that these updated policies will give you and your classmates the opportunity to participate in the other aspects of the Columbia College experience–whether co-curricular, social, or personal–that will be a significant part of your development as an undergraduate student.
The current Columbia University Statutes, which have governed the requirements for the Columbia College degree since 1959, mandate that students must complete 124 credits for graduation. Just as previous generations of students have done, current students can achieve 124 credits in eight semesters by taking an average workload of 15 to 16 credits per semester. Each point of credit assumes a minimum of three hours of work per week, including time spent in and out of class, so this average workload is presumed to be 45-48 hours per week, which faculty members believe to be a reasonable academic workload. The cap of 18 credits per semester allows you to fulfill the requirements for graduation, while also leaving room for students who may wish to take additional coursework from time to time.
These new policies are purposely intertwined. By establishing a cap of 18 points of credit per semester, the COI faculty members expect that you will make thoughtful decisions about your intellectual path, emphasizing the quality of your experience over the quantity of courses or programs. At the same time, they have approved new opportunities to double-count courses, so that students interested in pursuing two programs of study may be able to do so within the permitted courseload.
If you have already declared more than two programs of study and/or have been planning your academic schedule according to previously-established policies, you will have the opportunity to petition for exceptions after consulting with your advisers in the Berick Center for Student Advising and the Director(s) of Undergraduate Studies in your academic department(s) about how your plans may work within the new policies.
More information can be found on the Columbia College website. Please don’t hesitate to contact your advisers in the Berick Center for Student Advising should you have any questions about these policy changes.
James J. Valentini
Dean of Columbia College and
Vice President for Undergraduate Education
Dean of Academic Planning and Administration