Sunday, January 21

College unit maximums can restrict student opportunities


Students are told that the sky’s the limit when they come to UCLA. Conveniently, most people don’t tell them that the unit ceiling might stop them short.

The unit cap within each UCLA school limits the number of classes students can take before they are given the boot.

UCLA’s restrictions point to a growing trend among universities to get students in and out of college as fast as possible and with as few units as possible. It seems that most universities complicit in the rat race restrict the time students have to graduate, and some may soon charge students to take extra units.

As a result, college students who want to stay in school longer to double major or minor may be barred from doing so.

Students shouldn’t have to pay more to reap the full benefits of their education, nor should they be rushing to finish their degrees.

The UCLA College only allows students to exceed 216 units as long as they complete their degree within four years. Fortunately, UCLA’s unit maximums are relatively generous, and we have one of the best graduation rates in the country. Still, students who want to pursue multiple areas of study must plan meticulously lest they go over their maximum.

Some major universities, like the University of Virginia, do not have a unit maximum at all. It seems no coincidence that it has the highest six-year graduation rate in the country, which means that more students graduate within six years at UVA than anywhere else. Stanford University even has a unit minimum for double-majors (unlike UCLA), and no unit ceiling.

I’ve currently completed 214 units, and that’s without a second major or even a minor. It’s actually because I switched majors during my sophomore year and did travel study during the summer. Luckily, I’ll be finishing my degree next quarter, just within four years.

I can only imagine how many more units students with two majors must have accumulated, and how much more pressure they must face to graduate. Finishing twice as many units in the same amount of time is a daunting task for any student.

It also becomes a matter of quality versus quantity; a student may be able to finish two degrees in one year, but at the expense of true learning and high grades.

The reason UCLA has unit caps in all its schools is to encourage students to graduate quickly instead of lingering on indefinitely. But some students need the extra time if they’ve decided to change majors, double major or minor. It’s hard to justify taking classes for personal enrichment when you’re hard-pressed for time, even though this goes against the core principles of a university.

In Utah, legislators are currently deciding whether or not to increase tuition for students who complete more than 120 percent of the units needed for graduation. If the new laws are instated, students will have to front the total amount of their previously subsidized education. The revenue would cover the 7 percent deficit in higher education funding.

The amount of time a student spends in school wouldn’t even matter ““ once students have excess units, they’ll have to pay around three times their current tuition.

For some reason, it seems as though the lawmakers can think of no better solution to the financial woes of education than to penalize students.

Students shouldn’t be punished for taking longer to explore their options or pursue ambitious workloads.

Similarly, the higher costs dissuade students from trying out new fields in the first place. Who knows what talent is lost by those students who remain only in one field, blind to their potential in other areas?

The push to get students through the college mill as fast as possible should be re-evaluated. For now, at least administrators at Utah universities don’t support the proposed legislation, understanding that student development outweighs current monetary needs.

The sky might be the limit, but only if you realize the sky doesn’t go on forever.

Is the unit ceiling crashing down on you? E-mail Nijhawan at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.