Changes to core will help USI comply with new law

James Vaughn

USI is depending on changes to the core curriculum to put its degree programs in compliance with a new state law that forces public universities to require no more than 120 credit hours for bachelor’s degrees or 60 credit hours for associate’s degrees.

Currently, most programs at USI require 124 credit hours for graduation – 50 of which are required for the core. The new core, which will require 39 credit hours, will take effect in the fall of 2014.

Vice-President of Government and University Relations Cynthia Brinker said 95 percent of the programs will easily fall under the 120 credit hour law once the changes to the core curriculum are made. The university has been working with the Commission for Higher Education to implement a timeline, Brinker said.

“The first thing we needed to do was to provide a list to the commission – an inventory of all of our degree programs and the number of credit hours that is required by each program,” Brinker said. “There are going to be a few exceptions that we are going to pursue.”

The exceptions would be for those programs that, because of accreditation standards by the programs’ acceditation organizations, will require more than 120 credit hours. To sit for the CPA, students in the accounting program must earn a minimum of 150 credit hours.

Engineering is the only other program that will not be in compliance with the law once the new core is initiated. Therefore, the university is pursuing an exception for the program.

“We’re in the collection stage right now,” Brinker said.

Members of the commission are currently compiling a list of degree programs. Once they’re done, they will make a presentation to the whole commission.

“As we move into next semester – the spring of 2013 – the implementation will take place,” Brinker said. “The 124 credit hours on the check sheets are still there because, obviously, the law just took effect.”

There is currently no deadline for when institutions must be in line with the law.

“The law was kind of silent on that,” Brinker said.

When the law went into effect, the university was given rules to follow. The goal of the law, which went into effect July 1, was to get more students out the door in four years.

“Governor Daniels felt very strongly about the whole idea of it taking students longer to get through,” Brinker said. “This way, if you take 15 credit hours in the fall and 15 in the spring – that’s 30 – 30 times four years is 120.”

Students who decide to change majors or double major don’t fit into this law – it helps students who are on a direct path, she said.

The university will give a final report to the commission staff at the end of the academic year. The commission will require a review and report of credit hours required for degree programs every three years.

Fifth-year senior and public relations/advertising and Spanish double major Melissa Chavez said she’s noticed that only students who take at least 15 credit hours a semester graduate in four years.

“I know the semesters that I took 12 credit hours, my grades were better,” Chavez said. “Taking 12 credit hours kept me sane, but I had to take summer classes to compensate.”

She’s interested to see where the university will make cuts to the core, she said.

“I think it’s good to have a well-balanced education,” Chavez said. “Even though some classes irritated me, I think they served their purpose and I feel more educated because of them. Personally, I’ve had to take three science classes and I wish I would have only had to take one – science doesn’t really pertain to public relations.”

Associate Professor of Physics Kent Scheller said when students enroll at USI their requirements are laid out for them in the University Bulletin.

“With the change in state law, all programs must come into compliance,” Scheller said. “The individual departments and colleges are working through the specifics as we speak.”