Led by members of Associated Students, UCSB’s student government association, a small group rallied near UCSB’s Davidson Library on May 27 to protest the Minimum Cumulative Progress policy. Known as MCP, this new rule raises the average number of credits that full-time undergraduate students are required to take each quarter from 12 to 15. A typical UCSB class is four units; thus, MCP raises the minimum class load from three to four per quarter.
Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas explained that the change stems from the fact that state funding is based on full-time enrollment, not the total size of the student body. “There’s a conversion ratio between full-time enrollment and student body that’s been falling over the years. This is an effort to turn that around and get full state funding. The fact that other UCs have done this and it works out means that this is a doable policy.” And according to the Academic Advising Web site for UCSB’s College of Letters and Sciences, the aim of the policy is to ensure that students graduate in a timely manner, thereby opening up more slots for incoming freshmen. Also a tool for UCSB to increase its state funding by increasing the amount of units students are taking during a given quarter, the rule has caused worry for students who rely on part-time jobs to help pay for school. Furthermore, some scholarships are only available to full-time students, and some could lose this status.
The decision to institute MCP was handed down by UCSB’s Academic Senate-a regulatory body composed entirely of faculty members-and students did not get much of a say, noted Associated Students (AS) representatives. Only one student may attend only some Academic Senate meetings, and only as an observer. If this student-designated per school year-cannot make it to the meeting, another student may not take his or her place.
“If you were to increase the coursework requirement, it would affect students like me who work 25-30 hours per week,” said Lindsey Quock, external vice president of the Associated Students Board. While there weren’t many people in attendance at the press conference, AS boardmembers posited that working students wouldn’t be the only ones affected; those involved in community groups and other extracurricular activities would be under pressure as well. Although some students are worried about the difficulty of signing up for an extra class every quarter, many students who regularly take four classes per quarter deny having such problems. “I’ve never had problems even crashing classes,” said senior Roee Salem. “If you’re smart about it, it’s not a problem.”
Scheduled to take effect for the 2008-2009 school year, the rule will also mean that students will no longer be able to enjoy a lighter course load as a result of Advanced Placement and community college credits earned before enrolling at UCSB. While these credits still count toward graduation, they will not be counted toward the new 15-credit-per-quarter average requirement.
However, according to the Academic Advising Web site, there are exceptions to MCP, including study-abroad students, students enrolled in programs in the state and national capitals, disabled students, those who retroactively withdraw for a quarter, intercollegiate athletes, and students who sign a special contract with the university. At press time, university officials were unavailable to clarify the last exemption. Stephanie Brower, the AS Board’s outgoing president, maintained that waivers for MCP are not a convincing safeguard for working students. “To us, this is a smokescreen,” she said. “It’ll make you feel like you can get a waiver, but everyone will be subject to [MCP].” Lucas disagreed. “The fact that this is a change has people concerned about their individual situations. I think that this will actually help their academic careers.”
Aside from the increase in course load and potential impacts upon working students, AS boardmembers pointed out the decision to institute the MCP policy was carried out during finals week last spring, removing students’ ability to react. “We need better communication between the students and the decision makers,” said Brower.