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Mills faces course credit system change

Mills is considering converting its current course credit system to the more common semester hour system most institutions use. Though Mills College has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) since 1950, its students are not spending as many hours in the classroom as the association requires.

“We are considering changing from Mills course credits to the much more common ‘semester hour’ system,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Sandra Greer.

The hour system would require 35 hours in a class to earn 3 Mills credits and requiring 40 Mills credits to graduate.

Currently, Mills transfer students must convert their credits from other institutions to the Mills course credit system. Student work transferred from other institutions may not always equate to the standard 1 Mills course credit, but a transfer course which is equivalent to at least .75 Mills credits will satisfy a general education, major, or minor requirement, without having to make up the difference in credit, according to the Mills
Undergraduate Catalog.

While courses from other institutions transferred into Mills can count for general education, those classes may not count for a full Mills course credit. Although a student would not have to make up the difference in credit, they still must make up the difference in total credits to graduate.

Greer also provided some reasoning behind Mills debating the change from Mills course credits to semester hours.

“We will have to think about each course we offer and see what the transition would mean. It is not possible to answer the question just yet,” she said. “This year 39% our new students are transfer students, and they most often need to transfer semester hours.”

3.5 semester credits or 5-quarter credits transferred in from other colleges, using the current Mills course credit system are equivalent to one Mills course credit. Under the proposed semester hour system, a single credit transferred from an institution using the semseter credit system will equal one Mills course credit.

According to WASC, under federal regulations effective July 1, 2011, institutions are required to come into compliance with regulations regarding the definition and assignment of credit hours under Section 600.2 and 600.24. The definition of one WASC credit requires the completion of 12.5 hours to 15 hours in class per semester.

One unit classes at Mills are considered to be equal to 3 WASC credits. Mills courses meet for 2.5 hours for 14 weeks for a total of 35 hours spent in class per semester. This makes Mills classes 2.5 hours below the WASC requirement of 37.5 hours in the classroom.

Also, guidelines require a minimum of 120 WASC credits for graduation. However, according to WASC credit hour requirements, Mills students currently only complete 102 units to graduate. So according to WASC, Mills students are graduating while still 18 credits shy of their requirements.

“No one is questioning our compliance with WASC requirements, but we have had to explain why we are different from other institutions in the past,” said Accreditation Liaison Officer, Marianne Sheldon, a current History Professor at Mills College.

If the conversion takes place, it would mean Mills would either convert their current credit system to the more common semester hour system and require students to take additional classes to make up for the difference in units required to graduate, or require students to be in class for more time to meet WASC requirements to graduate.

“The change would happen over a couple of years and current students would be ‘grand-mothered’ into the current credit system,” Greer said.

On Sept. 24, 2012 in the last meeting among all the department heads, the issue of how many class hours are required for credits was brought up for discussion.

Greer said changing the credit system could also increase the financial aid given to students.

“The federal government uses semester hours in authorizing federal financial aid,” she said.

Although no confirmations have been made that changes to Mills course credit system are in fruition at the moment, serious consideration of changes are apparent and could be on the forefront of change in the near future.