Some majors may soon face unit caps

Melody Cherchian

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The California State University board of trustees will be voting in November on whether to cap the units required to complete a bachelor’s degree across all educational departments.

Currently, CSUN has 14 majors that require more than 120 units to graduate.

Elizabeth Adams, senior director of undergraduate studies at CSUN, said the reason certain degrees require more units is because of external accrediting agendas.

External agencies require certain courses for a degree. Between the required CSU courses, general education requirements and the accrediting agency’s requests, some degrees, including electrical and computer engineering, require about 120 to 129 units depending on the student’s emphasis.

Hamid Johari, professor and department chair of mechanical engineering, also sees value in the courses that may be cut. According to Jahari, these courses give them a solid background with hands-on learning that is integral to their disciplines. These majors require completion of several laboratory courses.

“We already have among the lowest unit requirements among our sister campuses that offer similar programs,” Johari said. “Our students have done exceedingly well as evidenced by their success in regional and national competitions when compared with their peers. We need to be very careful that we do not jeopardize their ability to compete in this environment by reducing important courses in their majors.”

According to Adams, about half of the degrees with more than 120 units required are in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. The rest reside in health and human development and some in the music department.

The cap is an attempt to help students graduate on time saving them almost a semester, according to Adams. All majors would require 120 units and no student would have to take more classes than another.

“We want to make sure all degrees are on the same track,” Adams said. “This would also speed graduation and help students save on tuition.”

Sophomore Malissa Murga, 19, an undecided major, said the cap is a good idea.

However, Samuel Marroquin, 23, a senior majoring in health administration, said the cap would be more detrimental than beneficial. Although a cut in units required would mean earlier graduation, Marroquin said the experience and quality of education is worth a lot more.

“I would’ve been done if I didn’t need certain units, but I wouldn’t feel as prepared as I do now,” Marroquin said. “It’s to the students’ benefit.”

Erik Fallis, a CSU media relations specialist, said 20 percent of CSU degrees are more than 120 units. However, the cap would not affect courses required by accrediting agencies. Instead it would deal with general education, Fallis said. The CSU’s major mission is access for incoming students and opening more seats for new ones, according to him.

“We want to make four-year degrees actually finish within four years,” Fallis said. “We suggest overlapping general education courses with degree requirements and minimizing the amount of units this way. But we aren’t suggesting any classes in particular.”

Professors would find themselves adjusting their courses and learning objectives to fit these new requirements, possibly splitting them throughout different classes. Professors would also see a hike in demand for the classes that double count towards general education and degree units.

If the cap is passed, it would be implemented in Fall 2014. Adams said the committee would have to make a plan and pass it through the curriculum cycle to be evaluated. The cap would only affect students whose bachelor’s degrees fall under these colleges and departments.