Provost discusses changing Ramapo from 4 to 3 credits

Photo by Alyssa Rabinowitz

In recent weeks, provost Stefan Becker has proposed transitioning Ramapo College’s 4-credit course system to a 3-credit course system. The Student Government Association invited the provost to its general meeting on Wednesday to encourage a dialogue between Dr. Becker and the students this potential change would affect.

The majority of colleges and universities in the U.S. use a 3-credit system, which entails an average of five classes per semester, requiring 120 credits to graduate. The provost laid out this difference between Ramapo and other institutions. He noted, “I’m not trying to qualify this and say something’s better, something’s worse, it’s just different.”

Dr. Becker made it clear he’s merely opening up this idea to the campus community, and nothing has been officially decided. He began with some of his perceived advantages of the switch, including the ability to add double majors or minors and additional credentials to one’s resume, and adding more breadth to one’s educational experience at Ramapo. He then opened up the discussion to hear from SGA members and other students in attendance, and responded when clarification was needed.

Many students appeared to agree with the provost’s position. Senior Achyut Gautam pointed out that most students are happy when class hours are shortened, despite supposedly wanting to keep the longer 4-credit classes. He also urged students to consider the rigor of Ramapo classes compared to elite institutions, and not worry about the number of credits looking less impressive.

“Do we want to learn more and get the number of credits that we deserve, or do we just want to tell that we have more credits, but we are really hollow inside?” Gautam posited.

Gautam, along with the provost and other students, noted the advantage of being able to take a wider variety of classes outside one’s major. This would especially apply to students in the business or nursing schools with rigid course requirements.

On the other hand, SGA senate president Stephen Stella suggested that perhaps change should come from within the five different schools at Ramapo. He noticed that both the school of Social Sciences and Human Services and the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies offer different environmental law courses with the same name.

“If our schools can cooperate to create interdisciplinary minors, that can be solved instead of fundamentally changing the entire educational structure,” Stella said. “This is a complicated issue, but you don’t want to make a more complicated solution.”

Stella also noted Ramapo College had once been a 3-credit institution before transitioning to its current 4-credit course system. “Before we even talk about this, we have to understand why we changed, and what faults or misgivings occurred in the past that we tried to move away from,” he said.

There are also financial concerns for the College when considering this switch. Dr. Becker explained how students taking a greater quantity of classes and taking on additional majors or minors would encourage courses to be filled. Offering many courses will low enrollment is a significant financial burden on the College, according to Becker.  

Many students voiced concerns about the negative consequences of fitting more courses into a semester, however. Some of these were the greater workload, especially for students who must balance on- or off-campus employment, commuting, family responsibilities, or a combination of these.

Senior Eddie Aditya Anand spoke of the 4-credit system as a positive way that Ramapo is different from other institutions, citing the high retention rate compared to other New Jersey colleges. He also brought up the existing issues with mounting responsibilities on not only students, but faculty as well.  

“We have so many gaps to fill before we even consider offering more courses. I just don’t see it as viable,” Aditya Anand said.

 Becker addressed this concern that there may be a shortage of professors if this change were enacted. He said, “If we don’t add a single tenure-track faculty member, there would be more courses offered here on campus.” Still, students seemed concerned that faculty members would be spread thin the same way students might be.

The discussion ended rather abruptly due to time constraints. This was undoubtedly an issue that students wanted to continue voicing their opinions on, and the provost seemed eager to learn more about all students’ perspectives.

Senate president Stella remarked on the meeting, “If this is something that’s pertinent and interesting to students, we would definitely have another meeting where we would invite him … if this is a dialogue people want to keep having.”

After the discussion concluded, students approached provost Becker to discuss the topic further, which he did readily. “I’m so encouraged to see and hear all these thoughts and comments, particularly that students are able to see beyond their immediate interests,” he said. “I wanted to hear directly from students and I heard a lot. This meeting was very helpful in gathering information so we can move forward in the right way.”