The minimum upper-division credit required for graduation will be lowered from 51 credit hours to 45 starting in fall 2023.
The push to lower upper-division credit requirements started two years ago. The academic senate gathered on Jan. 26 and approved administrative legislation that allows for the required credit hours for graduation to be lowered. It is expected that this policy will start before by fall 2023, resulting in an updated undergraduate catalog.
In a competitive analysis shared by SG, UTD, among other Texas universities, held some of the highest credit requirements in the state. Ravi Prakash, computer science and honors college professor, said that this updated policy could provide students with more academic opportunities.
“[This recommendation] seems to line up with some of the other peer institutions,” Prahash said. ”[While] some other places have slightly lower than that, our peers felt that 45 was just the right sweet spot for us.”
The policy was initially tabled in 2020 due to COVID-19 emergency responses and other imperative work. Primarily, the discussion focused on whether UTD would lose money from students paying lower overall tuition fees. After review from the Office of Finances and Budgets and the undergraduate committee, it was brought back for review in the November 2022 faculty meeting with approval from the Office of the Provost. Jessica Murphy, dean of undergraduate education and associate professor of literature, has already begun working to ensure this policy benefits the students currently enrolled.
“It will have a positive effect on students,” Murphy said. “I think that it can help them, especially in majors that do not already require 51 upper division hours as part of the major requirements. I think it can help them graduate faster. It can help them get additional potentially 2000 level work that helps them succeed in their major as their free elective. So they just have a little bit more freedom in the curriculum for those majors.”
This policy update will be a revision in the first 40 pages of the UTD catalog, which list the academic policies that apply to all seven schools. This will automatically apply to all current and future students. Murphy has already written a memo to include students graduating in the spring and summer of 2023.
While all UTD schools are impacted by this change, NSM and ECS are particularly impacted by this change, as they contain the most majors that had a minimum graduation requirement of 51 upper-division credit hours. In particular, according to the academic senate, students were having trouble fulfilling all of their class requirements with little room to experience other electives or graduate within four years. Amy Walker, associate dean of ECS, believes this will help reverse that issue and welcome new students.
“Now I think we have an opportunity,” Amy Walker said, “I think it opens up possibilities for some students who want to double major, [and] I think there are some possibilities … to make it easier for our transfer students.”
The policy was changed for three reasons that affect student graduation and academic success. One complaint that the academic senate received is that students could not graduate in the four year requirement, especially if they had failed or withdrawn from certain classes.
Secondly, the Academic Senate identified that students were unable to minor or double major effectively. The average number of credit hours for undergraduate students requires 120 hours to graduate, translating to roughly 15 credit hours a semester. For students in NSM or ECS, for example, a single major could require up to 128 hours. Double majors would have to balance a minimum of 157 hours. As a result, double major students would have to take 19 to 20 credit hours a semester while managing professional, extracurricular and personal responsibilities.
Finally, transfer students were deterred from joining UTD since other similar ranked schools to UTD had a 45 credit hour requirement. The academic senate recognized that UTD was losing potential community college students or international students because of the high demand credits.
“I think this [lowered requirement] definitely provides added flexibility to students,” Prakash said. “It opens up about six to eight hours to do other electives or minors or things of that sort, so that definitely does increase flexibility and helps every student tailor their learning to their interests.”