As of Fall ’09, the College will begin charging students who take a course load of 19 credits or higher. The charge, at $185 per credit, was instituted for partially financial and partially academic reasons.
“It originated on the finance side,” said Assistant Vice President for Finance Chris True. However, “Certainly academic concerns factored into where we set the break point.”
“We were originally going to set it at greater than eighteen. In the end we decided that 18 was a little too restrictive and we bumped it up to nineteen,” he said, since there are a lot of students who take extra courses required by their majors or have learning contracts for special housing. Because 16 credits is considered to be the normal academic course load, students will still be able to take two extra credits without paying the overload fee.
“Part of [the reason] is that St. Mary’s is very unusual within higher education for not having an overload charge,” said Mark Heidrich, the College’s Assistant Vice President for Academic Administration. “Tuition is based on normal course loads.” Before the implementation of the fee, students who were overloading on credits weren’t paying any more fees for the extra education. It “skews the credit per cost balance,” said Heidrich.
“It’s not intended to raise a lot of money,” said True. “We might get $45,000 out of it.” Even if students reduce the number of credits they are taking, the College will still benefit. “It’s a cost savings to the college either way, whether it’s additional revenue or a few less course sections. Right now it looks like [there will be] less additional sections rather than increased revenue.”
The charge, the same as the part-time tuition rate, is discounted when compared to what the average full time in-state student pays. The 2009-10 in-state tuition per semester is approximately $5,500, or about $343 per credit.
The idea of an overload charge was first presented in January 2009, just before the beginning of the spring semester, and approved in May of the same year.
The policy has not been a cause for concern among St. Mary’s students. “The ones I’ve talked to are aware of it so they’re really looking at how they’re going to pick their schedule,” said registrar Susan Bennett. However, no students have contacted True with complaints.
“We do have some students who have taken a lot of extra credits,” said True. Though there are fewer students registered to overload on credits at this point in the semester, the add/drop period has not yet closed, and the percentage difference between this semester and previous semesters is miniscule.