Reconsider full-time credit hours

By Eleanor Blick

Columbia makes tremendous efforts to keep tuition low. Although there was a slight tuition increase this year, Columbia remains one of the most affordable private arts and media colleges in the country and the most affordable private college in Chicago. Without these continued efforts, the unique education Columbia offers would be less accessible for many.

Despite Columbia’s moderate tuition cost, though, some students still end up wasting a significant amount of money because of the credit hour requirements Columbia uses to define full- and part-time students.

A full-time Columbia student can take between 12 and 16 credits at the current tuition rate of $9,570 per semester. In order to earn the 120 to 128 credits needed to graduate in a traditional four years’ time, a student must take at least 15 credits every semester. If a student consistently takes 12 credits, it will take five years to earn 120 to 128 credits and cost at least an

extra $19,140.

One student should not be forced to pay significantly more than another when, in the end, he or she has received the same amount of instruction.

While this is the traditional college billing system, other schools offer more leeway. Compared to other local and national schools with similar arts programs, Columbia’s 16-hour cap is the lowest. Most schools allow students 12 to 18 credits for the same price, whereas Columbia students who exceed 16 credits pay $484 per additional credit. Some schools have started billing strictly per credit, ensuring students get exactly what they pay for.

After the first year of courses at Columbia, it can be hard for students to balance more than 12 credits with jobs and/or internships. This system is especially difficult for transfer students, who often have to take several major courses at a time.

Columbia should up its full-time cap to remain competitive with other colleges. Then students could take additional courses early—in order to balance out the more intense schedules expected during junior and senior years—and still graduate in four years.

Additionally, Columbia could restructure tuition cost. Because the majority of classes count for three credits, Columbia could consider a flat fee for every three credits up to 12, then a small price break for each additional credit. This would relieve the pressure some students feel to cram in as many credits as possible in order to get their money’s worth.

Columbia makes great strides to remain affordable, but it needs to remain practical to attract students and parents.