A degree from Georgetown College will no longer require a minimum number of courses in an effort to alleviate the academic burden placed on students.
Previously, students needed to take at least 38 courses in order to earn a College degree. Students must still complete 120 credits — a typical course is three credits — to graduate, but the minimum has been removed.
This curriculum change affects all students graduating in fall 2019 or later, according to an April 23 email from the Georgetown College Dean’s Office informing College students of the update.
The proposal passed April 15 in a unanimous vote of the College Executive Council, the College’s governing body comprised of faculty, deans and students, according to Jacqueline Crispino (COL ’19), a College Academic Council student representative.
The College’s decision to amend degree requirements intends to achieve fairness across majors and eliminate unnecessary confusion in degree tracking, according to the email announcing the update.
The previous course minimum was especially stressful for students pursuing degrees in the sciences, biology major Amelia Smith (COL ’22) wrote in an email to The Hoya. Smith, who is also on the pre-veterinary track, has requirements for her biology major, the College core requirements and the pre-health studies course recommendations. With the former 38 course minimum, meeting all these requirements entailed an overwhelming course load, Smith said.
“This is the best news I’ve gotten all month,” Smith wrote. “As a pre-vet student myself, I can attest to the daunting academic rigor between vet school prerequisites, major requirements, and the college’s previous requirement for minimum course load. With five-to-six credit science courses and intensive languages, you basically have to be at 20 credits [per semester] constantly to meet the previous course requirement.”
The course minimum was separate from the credit minimum to graduate, causing some students to take costly summer courses to meet the minimum, according to College Vice Dean Sue Lorenson. Tuition for undergraduate summer sessions is $1,496 per credit, according to the summer sessions website. The change aims to eliminate this unnecessary financial hardship.
“We were concerned about the potential financial hardship the course count might create for students who arrive at Georgetown without advanced credit,” Lorenson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We notified all students who will be affected by the change, recognizing that it may affect some students’ plans.”
The College Academic Council found through research that exceptions to the course number requirement are given to one-third of students in the College, which was a strong indication that the requirement should be removed, according to Crispino.
“The 38 course minimum therefore was only a requirement for some of the students in the College,” Crispino wrote in an email to The Hoya. “How can a rule only be a rule two-thirds of the time?”
Managing course count adjustments and requests for exemptions placed a heavy administrative burden on the deans, according to Lorenson. Students who transfer from or study abroad at schools with different academic systems, Georgetown programs that entail courses with credits lower than the typical three credits, or other unique situations complicated the 38 course minimum for both students and faculty.
“We make adjustments for transfer students who come from ‘4/4’ schools, for students who study abroad in different systems, and for students who take lower-credit classes which can be ‘bundled’ (like Core Pathways courses or music/theater performance courses),” Lorenson wrote. “These manual adjustments to the count are administratively time consuming and potentially error prone.”
The curriculum change will give College students more scheduling flexibility and standardize Georgetown’s requirements with other universities’ requisites, according to Lorenson.
“We recognized that the College’s degree requirements were anomalous,” Lorenson wrote. “A review of requirements at peer institutions revealed that we were were the only school to deal in the currency of courses and credits, instead of credits alone.”