You would be hard pressed to find an NYU student clamoring for more responsibilities in their schedule. But when it comes to academic classes, the responsibility required is remunerated in future profits both intellectual and personal; this is the reason students attend college, and why so many students are willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money to attend NYU. Yet, the university’s current cap of 18 credits covered under the standard full-time tuition is an unfair burden and a limitation on an already financially tapped student body.
As the policy currently stands, NYU students in multiple schools are limited to between 12 and 18 credits under full-time tuition payments. Using four credits as the standard for a full-credit class allows for combinations that ultimately limit students to four courses at most — in addition to a two-credit course. If a student chooses a course load with a credit count above 18, they incur additional tuition charges for each infracting credit.
One would be forgiven for assuming that “full-time student” meant students could take enough classes to fill their time. The university’s interpretation of this term takes extraordinary license with the “full-time” aspect. Certainly, there are students whose current course loads fill their time, particularly when taking into account the internship and extracurricular culture of NYU. Yet, in the case of students for whom taking five full-credit classes is necessary to graduate on time, access is restricted to those who can afford the extra tuition.
It is not just that the current payment-per-credit system is unfair — it is also rather unusual. Take Washington University in St. Louis, another large private research university and a member of NYU’s athletic conference. Their policy allows students 21 credits per semester — the equivalent of five full NYU classes with one credit to spare — before students incur additional tuition charges.
Class-credit systems between two higher education institutions do not always align, as any transfer student can attest. But among academic peers who use a semester system, five full-time courses are often the norm; Johns Hopkins allows for five full-credit classes, with the option to petition for more. Looking north, both geographically and on rankings lists, Columbia uses a flat tuition rate. If NYU aspires to match the academic rigor and prestige of its New York City companion, then the administration could begin by mimicking the freedom for all students to pursue challenging academic course-loads with a flat tuition rate. Among the rest of the Ivy League, Harvard, Yale, Penn, and Cornell all allow five full-credit courses at a flat tuition rate.
It is clearly not an issue of the university worrying that students are unable to manage a 20-credit workload; if it were, there would be a hard cap on the number of credits per semester. The current policy, intentionally or not, turns the academic ambitions of economically privileged students into an additional revenue stream.
NYU’s credit cap limits demanding courses of study to those who can afford them, even after financial aid has been taken into account. Students who already pay full-time tuition to attend NYU should only be limited by their time and academic ability in what courses they take, not by the financial hurdles imposed by NYU. The university claims to be a propagator of diversity and social mobility, yet this policy most directly harms the portions of the student body that already surmount large disadvantages to attend in the first place.
Students, with their limited perspective and knowledge of administrative reasoning, have expressed concerns about class size and other NYU policies. The extra tuition paid to take more than 18 credits is a source of revenue whose absence would be felt somewhere in the budget sheet. Yet NYU is a not-for-profit institution, and according to Albert, plenty of courses maintain and ultimately waste open spots each semester. Adding a fifth available full-time class would likely fill these.
Even if larger student course loads would compel NYU to hire additional faculty in pursuit of maintaining a small average class size — a measure that is more indicative of prestige to rankings institutions than of actual classroom results — would that not be a more noble use of funds than the millions thrown into global campuses to uphold and promote NYU’s global brand? The school should instead expend its resources on educating current students in the most complete and financially indiscriminate manner possible.
This policy is a way of reinforcing existing inequities between students. The more generous stances taken by other universities make this relatively rare policy a double affront to students. If there are administrative concerns unaccounted for here, then the administration should express them and why the current policy uniquely fits NYU but not its peer institutions.
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Email Dante Sacco at [email protected]