Back to Three Credits

Alison Macbeth –Assistant Opinions Editor

Most of us don’t realize that RIC’s four credit course system is not the norm for American colleges. Several years ago, RIC adopted this method as a solution that allowed people to graduate on time. However, this may not support quality education for all RIC students.

A majority of colleges have a three credit system which meets three times a week for a 50 minute session. Students typically take five classes and upon completion would receive 15 credits a semester. The University of Rhode Island and Brown use this credit system. RIC used to have a majority of three credit classes for many years before switching to our current four credit class.

Four credit classes run twice a week for 1 hour and 50 minutes. Technically, professors are supposed to give a ten minute break in the middle (that doesn’t always happen). Those who advocated for the 4 credit system believed that this schedule would be a better fit for RIC students’ work calendars and busy lives. This system allows students to complete requirements more quickly, by locking down sixteen credits a semester.

However, RIC students are losing out on the opportunity to expand their research and understanding with the five classes. Simply, RIC students are exposed to less topics and courses that are important to a liberal arts education. Four credit classes leave a student with approximately 32 course topics at graduation while a three credit system gives a graduate about 40 courses in an eight semester plan.

Similarly, although the 1 hour and 50 minute structure seems comparable,  the class is often the same in content as a three credit course. Therefore, students are jipped from the depth of their education with a wide spectrum of topics.

Although we might be in it too deep to change the system back to four credits, it is worth thinking about the ramifications of this plan, and develop ways to counteract these effects. Ensuring that professors are teaching four credits worth of material is an important first step along with quality experiential learning to engage students for the longer class period.

Accessibility for the typical RIC student’s schedule is important; however, quality education is equally important. Many other universities prescribe the three credit system and so it should be vital for the RIC administration to reevaluate if four credit classes serve the mission and excellence of RIC students.