Eastern Washington University administrators want to stop students from signing up for classes and then withdrawing at mid-term for frivolous reasons.
Abuse of Eastern’s easy withdrawal policy leaves too many classroom seats empty when other students are trying to get into those slots, officials said.
Several changes are being considered to make sure classes are filled each term, said Flash Gibson, vice provost. By running classes at capacity, the university can educate more students for the same price.
There is a growing concern that public colleges and universities need to make better use of tax subsidies, partly by getting as many students as possible through classes and out the door in four years.
At Eastern, only one of every six freshmen who entered the school in 1987 earned their degrees after four years.
State and university officials are trying to increase that graduation rate. Tighter withdrawal policies is one way to do that, they said.
Students aren’t so sure they like the proposed crackdown. They said the administration may cause hardships for students who face emergencies and need to withdraw for legitimate reasons.
“This situation is a perfect example of the condescending nature of these overpaid state bureaucrats,” student Joseph Hylkema said in a letter to the news media.
Eastern for years has allowed students to drop classes at mid-term for a small fee.
Now, the administration wants to charge $15 for a class withdrawal, and limit students to one withdrawal per year after the second week of the term.
Gibson said students take advantage of the current policy by signing up for more classes than they need, and then weeding out those they don’t like. “We call it shopping,” he said.
Eastern has one of the most liberal withdrawal policies in the state, he said. The proposed policy would still allow exceptions for emergencies.
Last winter, Gibson said 11 of the 70 students in his environmental studies class withdrew. They left behind seats that could not be filled because the withdrawals occurred at mid-term. Other students were denied seats when the class filled up at registration.
In addition to clamping down on class withdrawals, the university also wants to stop students from repeating courses to improve their grades above a C.
Currently, there are no restrictions on repeating classes.
Students said they need the flexibility to repeat courses if they are planning to get into graduate school and professional programs where high grades are required.
Josephine Opong, student body president, said the proposals could slow student progress toward degrees by making it harder for them to choose their majors.
Students now often take five or six years to complete what traditionally is considered a four-year degree.
Rather than cracking down on class withdrawals and students who repeat classes, the EWU administration needs to improve its class scheduling so that students can move through college at a steady pace, Opong said. University advisers also need to do a better job of helping students plan their programs, she said.
The proposed changes must be approved by a faculty committee that has student representatives.