California State Offers Tough Love To “Super Seniors” - Higher Education
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California State Offers Tough Love To “Super Seniors”

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by Janelle L. Plummer

The California State University system’s budget is shrinking and that means space is limited for “super seniors,”  those students who keep taking classes despite having enough credits to graduate. As part of a budget-cutting measure, CSU trustees have given campuses unprecedented authority to disenroll “super seniors” this fall.

Cynthia Rawitch, associate vice president for undergraduate studies at the Northridge campus, said “super seniors” are students who have acquired more than 140 credits and are eligible to graduate.

She said these students probably doubled majored then switched majors, transferred to the university, or had one or two minors, and now they have accumulated more than enough credits to graduate. So they are classified as “super seniors.”

“We are not throwing [students] out of the university,” Rawitch said.  “We are moving them towards that degree.”

Rawitch said four weeks into the fall semester, all students who have at least 110 credits will receive a letter requiring them to meet with their academic adviser. Students who have accumulated 130 credits will receive notice that they will be unable to register for class until they meet with their academic adviser. 

Officials say this mandatory advising is about improving academic progress – for the “super seniors” as well as other students. Super seniors may be taking up seats in courses other students need in order to graduate.

Why would a student, despite having enough credits for a degree, stay in school, which has become increasingly expensive during the recession? Reasons vary, said Elizabeth Adams, associate dean at the College of Humanities at the Northridge campus, but one culprit is the economy. 

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“Some of them are scared of the economy, and they feel the university is better than finding a job,” Adams said. “Some are trying to get into graduate school and don’t have the prerequisites they need, so they enroll in classes.”

About 5 to 6 percent of the seniors enrolled at the CSU Northridge campus fall into the “super senior” category. In Spring 2008, there were 612 such students, and they were counseled by advisors. Graduation data suggest that one in five of these supere seniors graduated within one year of receiving special counseling.

Adams said her advice to “super seniors” is to find a path out. They have access to academic advisors, faculty, associate deans and other people on campus to help them obtain a degree. 

“If  they are done,” Adams said, “they should give up their spot and move on.”

Victor Gonzalez, 22, a student majoring in microbiology at the Los Angeles campus,  considers himself a “super senior.” The dilemma he faces: a specific course he needs is not available, so he enrolls in an archery course he doesn’t need just to maintain his full-time student status and receive his scholarship.

“If they offered the classes that we needed, we would not have to take additional courses,” he said.  “So now they want us to move on?”

Course enrollment is on a first-come, first-serve basis and there’s lots of competition for seats, Gonzalez said.

“Above all we should be able to register for any courses,” Gonzalez said.



© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com

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