by Jaclyn Roco
Editor in Chief
The majority of three-unit undergraduate courses could be bumped to four units as soon as fall semester, if faculty supports a proposal by the University’s top administrators.
University of La Verne President Stephen Morgan, through a letter to John Gingrich, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has recommended this change, which may make the University more fiscally and academically efficient.
“The use of three-unit courses is much less efficient than four-unit courses in terms of units generated,” Morgan said. “At a time when increased efficiency could have a positive effect on our salary pool, this should be a concern to all of us. I propose we eliminate the use of three-unit courses in the undergraduate program.”
At present, however, most of the University’s faculty does not buy into this decision, said George Keeler, chairman of both the Undergraduate Academic Policies Committee and the Communications Department. Apart from not fully understanding the proposal, the faculty is not convinced that this is the right thing to do academically, he said.
Keeler said UGAP is exploring whether increasing course units would be the best decision for the University. In any event, he said, the change could take time.
UGAP passed a resolution Feb. 14 that directed undergraduate academic departments to review the 3-4 unit issue with the intention of moving 90 percent of the courses to a four semester base, including general education courses. The following week, the Faculty Senate endorsed the resolution.
But the resolution was hotly debated and consequently tabled March 10 by the Faculty Assembly.
“It is a complicated process,” Keeler said. “It involves the size of majors and the size of the general education program. If we increase the unit size to four-units without paring down general education and major sizes, students will not be able to graduate on schedule in four years. It is easy to increase unit value to four units, but to do that in a responsible manner means academic departments need to be streamlined so that students can graduate in four years.”
Eric Bishop, director of academic advising and enrollment management, with Registrar Marilyn Davies, found that students would be able to graduate in four years with the unit increase if schedules are planned properly.
“It’s a matter of understanding the requirements, taking control of their academic progress and getting advising (and) proper planning,” Bishop said.
“We’ve looked at that issue, and it’s really not a big issue at all,” Gingrich said.
Although the decision is still pending, Gingrich said he supports the proposal.
There would be some classes in general education, athletics or education that have to remain three-units, but it is better for most departments to go back to four, he said.
Gingrich said student loads, faculty loads and financial concerns could all be eased with the return to mostly four-unit classes.
With so many three-unit classes, students are taking more classes than needed to reach full-time status, he said.
“Students have to take four classes to get financial aid to get to 12 units, whereas if classes were four-units, they would only need three classes,” he said. “This would be a better educational experience.”
After talking to students and faculty, Morgan said that he realized that many were confused by the cross use of three and four-unit courses.
“I have also been convinced that the use of both three and four-unit courses in the undergraduate program is confusing, inequitable and inefficient,” Morgan said in his letter. “I have discovered that the cross use provides extra work for the Registrar’s Office, Financial Aid, Accounts Receivable and many advisors.”
Changing to four units would allow departments to teach fewer courses to meet student loads. It would do away with inequities across the departments and decrease the number of part-time instructors needed, Gingrich said.
“If we have to hire people to teach more courses, there is less money for salaries,” he said. “This has a big financial impact. There is a problem of equity among faculty load.”
A related third reason behind upping the units is due to financial losses, Gingrich said.
“I think we’re generally trying to solve issues in equity,” Gingrich said. “Sometimes four-unit classes lend themselves to a little bit of exposure and time. You don’t need to take as many classes (with them).”
Dan Merritt, professor of zoology, said that although there may be equity problems among faculty, he does not think it is necessary for all classes to be increased to four-units.
“If that is the only problem, then it wouldn’t be,” Merritt said. Faculty should receive three-quarter credit for teaching three-unit classes. Just make the workload reflect the amount of units.”
But bumping up the units of most classes, however, could have a domino effect in the general education program.
Morgan said in his letter that he was concerned about how burdensome the general education requirements had become.
“A recent analysis indicates that we require 23 courses with a range of 67 to 82 units,” he said. “Those numbers equate to as much as 53 percent to 64 percent of the required units for a bachelor’s degree. I believe G.E. requirements should not exceed 50 percent of the required units for graduation and would prefer to see the number reduced to something closer to 45 percent.”
Zandra Wagoner, general education program director, said she and the General Education Committee are looking at reducing the course load.
“If the G.E. stays as is, this will be a concern,” Wagoner said. “But whether it will get lowered is still up in the air; it’s still in discussions. That’s a question to be discussed by UGAP.”
Although Wagoner said she supports the measure to increase class units, she hopes that three-unit classes will still be an option.
“I definitely support that there be more consistency, but I don’t know that every class has to be four units,” Wagoner said.
“This is a very serious matter, both fiscally as well as academically,” Keeler said.
“This would return us to where we were five years ago when most of the classes were four-units, before the implementation of or current general education program.”