Proposal to Eliminate the 48 credit limit.
In the catalog change “No major program may require students to take more than 40 of the 120 credits required for graduation in any one discipline but students will be allowed to count up to 48 credits in a single discipline toward the 120” to “No major program may require students to take more than 40 of the 120 credits required for graduation in any one discipline.”
NOTE: This in no way influences the 40 credit limit on courses required by a given major. That restriction would still stand. This also does not influence the requirement that 60 credits be from outside the major discipline.
Justification: There are generally no such limits imposed on students at the best liberal arts colleges around the country, including Williams College, Amherst, Swarthmore, and Carlton. This credit limit is also not imposed by or on the Twin Cities campus. The minimum required 60 credits outside the discipline of the major will still stand, therefore the liberal arts education is not seriously compromised in any way. The restriction as it stands serves little purpose other than discouraging students from taking more courses within their designated major. Removing this restriction, in addition to simplifying the “tax code to graduation”, would enable students to take upper division courses in their major and still graduate within 4 years.
Some disciplines are generally unaffected by this restriction, such is the case with biochemistry. Majors whose content is cross-disciplinary are in essence not subject to this restriction since they draw credits from two disciplines. Independent of the extent of the possible positive or negative impacts of the 48 credit-limit, the fact that it seemingly applies to some majors and not others is reason to re-evaluate the implementation of such a rule.
While for many disciplines this rule has very little impact, for other fields, such as mathematics, it represents an unfair restriction to students who only wish to study their field in depth in preparation for future work (employment or graduate school). Courses from other disciplines generally do not help math majors in their field of study. In addition, any discipline that continually builds skills through practice, such as studio art or music is also negatively influenced by this arbitrary limit. The limit prevents highly motivated students from taking advantage of the faculty expertise on campus and mastering their craft to the extent that one can within 4 years.
It is difficult to quantify the negative impact of this limit. While faculty can cite cases anecdotally where students have taken courses and not received credit towards graduation, due to privacy rules student transcripts are not easily accessible. Although the 48 credit-limit is imposed infrequently at the office of the Registrar, the rule discourages students from registering for courses and therefore there is no record that would accurately reflect the true negative impact of this limit.
The intent of the 48 credit-limit is to encourage students to take courses outside their major disciplines and broaden their academic exposure. The 60 credit requirement and general education requirements were designed to meet such a need, and arguably DO meet this need.