Free credits in danger

Beginning fall term, students may have to pay for special credits that were once free.

Doled out by several departments on campus but known as “leadership credits” in student government and Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP) offices, the credits were created in 1997 to give students involved in a special project or activity a way to display their experience on transcripts.

The credits do not count toward health insurance or financial aid but can be used as elective credit toward graduation, and students can receive between one and three per term.

Leadership credits are guaranteed to be free through summer term, but Mike Driscoll, vice provost of academic personnel and budget, said that now that the tuition plateau has been eliminated, those credits must be accounted for.

“With the plateau, there were a lot of credits unpaid for,” he said, “We need to see where all of these credits are being given.”

The plan is that students will be charged for the credits beginning next September, but SALP director Tonantzin Oceguera and administrators from other departments are drawing up a proposal to keep the credits free.

Under the terms of the proposal, the leadership credit system would be restructured so students would earn the credit in a more classroom-like environment such as in workshops and by attending conferences. They also plan to publicize the credits to make more students aware of their availability, as well as tighten up the way the credits are distributed.

The program is being reviewed not just because of the elimination of the tuition plateau, but because of a drop in the number of students who use the credit and the confusion about how the credit should be awarded.

According to an annual report published last year by Wendy Endress, dean of students, while 79 students used the credits when the program first began, only 44 students used them in the spring of 2004. The report also said that “there is inconsistency in how staff are awarding credit, which suggests the integrity of the program is also due for review.”

Oceguera said that more students are signing up for the credit, with 72 students this term. She said that when the credits had cost money for two or three terms, not many students signed up for them.

“I feel very strongly that these credits should remain at no cost,” Oceguera said, “When students have had to pay, we’ve seen a drop in students who take advantage of the program.”

Students who use the credits are upset that they may have to pay, saying that they are an exchange for the services they provide to the campus.

“We’re contributing to the university,” student Jane Bratslavsky said, “[Leadership] credit is administered by SALP advisors who are paid for entirely by student fees.”

“It doesn’t cost the university a dime for this credit. They’re trying to profit off the students,” student government Vice President Ryan Klute said.

Driscoll said that even though the credits are different from regular class credit, offering them still costs money. “It’s not the same as [the leadership credit paying for] an instructor, but other staff do support [the credit].”

Driscoll offered three solutions to the leadership credit problem. The students could pay for them, the departments who pass them out could cover the costs, or the university could find a way to foot the bill.

“This is the least the university could do to recognize the services that students provide,” Oceguera said.