The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Intimidation won’t improve the system, instead of coercion the administration should explore reasons why students aren’t graduating on time

Aaron Helmbrecht

Contributing Reporter

Given the draconian budget cuts of the Fall 2009 semester, I was not surprised to learn that CSUN administration officials have approved a measure that cuts financial aid to undergraduate students who have exceeded 150 units.

But I was surprised to learn that the logic behind the measure was not budget related. It is an administration plan, which they hope will get students to graduate sooner.

I understand the whole trial-by-fire reasoning behind the measure. But if the administration really wanted students to graduate sooner, they would do more than just threaten to cut them off financially after spending multiple years and tens of thousands of dollars educating them.

They need to explore and address the reasons why students are graduating with over 150 units.

To help us navigate the path to graduation, each department has faculty advisors who tell students which classes will help them graduate. But one careless error from an advisor can lead a student toward a semester worth of work in exchange for a set of worthless units.

For example, Susie Torres, an advisor in the journalism department, tells students involved in independent study programs they can only apply three units of credit toward their major. If their program requires a six-unit commitment, the student must register for units that are worthless in terms of graduation. She says that this rule is not new or related to the budget cuts.

However, the University Catalog says exactly the opposite. The catalog says, “The maximum number of units of credit in Independent Study courses that can be counted toward the baccalaureate degree is six units in a major.”

Torres could not offer an explanation for the discrepancy between what she believes is the policy and what the catalog says it is.

This contradiction regarding CSUN policy by the very people who are paid to explain and administer that policy should be unacceptable. Yet these types of mistakes continue to occur every semester in every department.

One group of students who are particularly at risk is community college transfer students. For example, chemistry majors at a community college must pass Chem. 103 in order to transfer to CSUN.

But community college advisors don’t know that Chem. 103 is worthless in obtaining a CSUN chemistry degree. Chem. 100 is the required prerequisite for advancing in chemistry. The sad part about all this is that Chem. 100 and Chem. 103 are essentially the same course. This same type of bureaucratic foul up is also seen in departments such as biology, communications, and many more.

The final kick in the gut is that the policy includes non-credit units. This targets students who may have tested into remedial English because English is their second language. It targets students who were advised by their counselors to take a course on a non-credit basis as a, “refresher.”

And it targets everyone who didn’t test into college mathematics. Between these three factors, some students accumulate between 10 – 20 non-credit units by the time they graduate.

To the administrators who passed the financial aid reduction policy, I want to say that I know why you did it. And I’m not necessarily calling for its repeal. But understand that we students want to graduate just as much, if not more, than you want us to. So instead of approaching us with coercion, join us in improving the system so that we can get out of here quicker. Find a way to make sure that your advisors truly understand CSUN course credit policies and can properly explain them to students. Improve communication with community colleges so students aren’t taking the same class twice under a different name. And remove the provision that punishes students who were forced or convinced to take non-credit courses.

If we work together we can increase graduation timeliness and lower costs. If not, you’re going to have a lot of students with 150 units of education in their brains and nothing to show for it.

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