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The new credit cap, which will be implemented as students begin registering for classes for the upcoming Fall 2019 academic semester, is the first of its kind implemented at the college.

Barnard will implement a credit cap of 19 credits per semester beginning in fall 2019, Dean of Studies Natalie Friedman announced in an email sent to students on Wednesday.

The 19 credit cap is the first to be imposed for Barnard students after their first year, during which they must petition the Dean of Studies office if they want to take more than 18 credits per semester. The college’s only requirement for sophomores, juniors, and seniors prior to the announcement was a minimum 12 credits per semester requirement for full-time students.

The new credit cap, which will be implemented as students begin registering for classes for the upcoming fall 2019 academic semester, is the first of its kind at the college. In order to address issues of over-registration for classes, students will only be able to register for 23 credits during the shopping period, which administrators said was part of an effort to free up class space for students who have later registration times.

If a student wishes to take more than 19 credits for the semester, they may meet with their adviser who can approve the need for additional credits, including in cases where double majors require a greater course load, according to the email. However, an adviser may deny the request on the basis of stress levels and courses that would not fulfill any particular major or general-ed requirements. The registrar will automatically drop students from credits above 19 by the end of the registration period.

Barnard’s new cap exceeds that of Columbia College, which is set at 18 credits per semester but is lower than that of SEAS, which allows students to take up to 21 credits. During registration, however, Columbia College and SEAS students are not able to register for more than 18 credits per period. The cap was imposed in 2015 as part of a series of three new academic policies intended to reduce course load for Columbia College and SEAS students, in an effort to allow students to have a more “well-rounded” college experience, according to administrators.

According to the email, students who wish to appeal to take more academic credits must first obtain formal approval from their advisors. Students who are aiming to take more than 23 credits must additionally submit an approval form to the Registrar’s Office.

Read the full email below:

Dear Barnard Students,

Beginning with the Fall 2019 registration period that opens Monday, April 15, the new cap on the number of credits you will be able to take each semester is 19. You can add an additional four credits (up to 23) during early registration and the shopping period, but your adviser must grant approval for you to remain above 19 credits.

In the past, students have voiced concerns that without an enforced credit cap, too many students have been registering for as many as 30-40 credits, resulting in students with later registration times being shut out of courses. This new policy will enforce the College’s credit cap, meaning more courses should be available to you during the registration periods. The College’s Committee on Instruction has been working on this new policy and the faculty ratified it earlier this spring.

Here are a few FAQs outlining the changes:

Q: What is the new cap on credits?

A: Nineteen (19) credits. The minimum number of credits a student is required to take to be considered full-time is 12 credits, per Federal law. The Barnard maximum is 19 credits. We consider an ideal course load to be between 15 and 16 credits.

Q: What if I want to take more than 19 credits?

A: Talk to your adviser. Your faculty adviser can help you decide if taking more than 19 is a good idea for your particular needs. Your adviser can then grant or deny permission, or refer you to your Class Dean.

Q: What happens during early registration period in the spring and fall?

A: As you plan your courses for the upcoming semester, keep in mind that you will be able to register for up to 23 credits and you can still join up to three waitlists. If you get admitted from a waitlist, you can temporarily be registered in more than 23 credits, but then you will need to decide which class(es) to drop to make sure you end up with 19 credits by the registration deadline in September.

Q: What if I have more than 23 credits and I don’t drop any classes?

A: Your Class Dean will contact you and you will need to make adjustments.

Q: What if I don’t drop to 19 credits by the end of the registration period (September 13, 2019)?

A: The Registrar’s Office will drop you from any credits above 19 unless your advisor has approved the additional credits.

Q: What process should I be following with my adviser?

A: See your adviser during the early registration period this April and then again at the start of the semester. At the end of the registration period in mid-September, advisers will have to click the “Review Complete” button in Student Planning to indicate that they approve your final schedule at 19 credits (or above, with their permission).

Q: What if my adviser denies my request for more than 19 credits?

A: Have a conversation with your adviser about the reason for denial. If your adviser is uncertain, you can ask about the possibility of scheduling a joint meeting with you, the adviser, and your Class Dean.

Q: What should I do if I’m a junior or senior who is a little behind in credits and need additional credits to graduate in a timely fashion?

A:Talk to your adviser and Class Dean to determine if you can register for additional credits. If you are granted permission to register for more than 23 credits, you will need to submit an approval form to the Registrar’s Office.

Q: What if I really like trying out several different classes during the “shopping period?”

A: Unfortunately, too many students have been registering for upwards of 30 credits, which means other students have been shut out of courses. We are trying to help manage the “shopping period” so that all students have equal opportunity to register in a reasonable number of credits. It’s important that you make deliberate, careful choices during the early registration period in consultation with your adviser.

Q: What if I’m a double major? I may need 23 credits in any given semester!

A: You can work with your advisers to find a solution that meets your needs best. If you need more credits and your advisers both think you can handle that course load, they have the authority to approve your request.

Q: What types of courses would my adviser likely deny over 19 credits?

A: Advisers may deny a graduate-level course, for example, if you are a first-year or sophomore. Advisers may also deny courses that duplicate requirements, or would not fulfill any general education or major requirements.

Q: What types of courses would my adviser likely approve over 19 credits?

A: Advisers might approve any 1-credit course that seems appropriate, such as dance, theater, music, short courses, etc.

Q: What reasons might my adviser share with me for not approving more than 19 credits?

A: Advisers may have concerns about your overall stress, the number of reading-intensive courses, or too many courses that seem similar to one another. Advisers may be concerned about the amount of time and attention you can give to any particular course if you are enrolled in too many. Talk to your adviser honestly about how much you can take on in any given semester; think about a mix of courses that also have different “assessment modalities,” (e.g., a good mix of final papers and final exams). Consider what your mid-semester or end-of-semester will look like.

Q: What if my adviser and I can’t decide what to do?

A: Reach out to your Class Dean to schedule a conversation or group advising meeting (either by phone or in person).

If you have any questions, please contact your adviser, your Class Dean or email me at


Natalie Friedman

Co-Interim Dean of the College and Dean of Studies

Staff writer Heather Loepere can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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