[Be sure to check the comments for a clarification about the change.]
According to an email from the Chancellor sent out late Friday afternoon (and pasted at the end of this post), SIUC will now require graduates to complete only 42 hours in upper division classes (the old requirement was 60--out of the 120 minimum required).
I haven't done the research necessary to determine whether this lowering of our requirements for upper division courses is in keeping with our peers or not. Nor was I privy to the discussion about this change that took place in the Faculty Senate (which presumably took place before my election to that body). So I'm hoping for some informed comments. I did find it odd that the email came out at 4:43 on a Friday afternoon, the traditional time to hide things, and then, upon reflection, found it a bit odd that it came out at all. I at least had no idea of how many upper level hours were required for our undergraduates, so this one could have gone under the radar as far as I was concerned.
The question to ask, obviously, is whether or not lowering our formal graduation requirements will seriously undermine academics. It may not. Student can now graduate with four fewer upper-level classes--but these classes will be replaced by lower level classes, of courses, classes which may be valuable in their own right. On the other hand, the change raises the specter of dumbing down the curriculum. It is in keeping with removing the requirement for a core interdisciplinary course (a 300 level offering) and replacing it with University College 101.
The Chancellor triumphs this move as one that will help us attract more transfers, but does not in her message say anything about any potential downsides--she does not say why it took "thorough and careful study" to reach this decision. She does, at the end, throw in a bit about continuing to ensure academic integrity of our degree programs. "Our degree programs" may be the key phrase here; perhaps the idea is that individual programs will need to safeguard academic integrity, as the university as a whole won't be doing it, at least to the same degree it had in the past. But just as SIUC faces competitive pressures with other potential hosts of transfer students, our academic programs vie with one another for students. So don't be shocked if you hear a Friday afternoon suggestion that your program reduce the number of upper-level offerings it requires.
The Chancellor's email is pasted after the break.
January 20, 2012
After thorough and careful study, I am announcing an important policy change that will improve our past success and future ability to attract qualified transfer students from other higher education institutions, particularly community colleges. Effective with the start of the 2013/2014 academic year, the number of required senior institution hours has been revised to 42 credit hours in upper division courses. Our current requirement of 60 hours, at any level, has placed us at a significant competitive disadvantage with many of the institutions that our prospective transfer students consider attending.
I wish to thank the Faculty Senate, the Dean's Council, Provost Nicklow, Associate Provost Allen, the Enrollment Management staff, and others who worked diligently to review the proposed policy changes and offer input and support for the revised policy. Underlying this policy is the goal of making SIU more competitive for transfer students while continue to ensure the academic integrity of our degree programs. See the revised policy at the following link:
Thank you for your combined effort to advance our university.