CSU considers units cap

Rack up more than, say, 140 units, and your college adviser will start bugging you about taking a little walk called “graduation.”

Now, state legislators and the California State University Chancellor’s Office want to crack down on what they’re calling “excess units.” With the release of the 2004-05 budget proposal, Chancellor Charles Reed said that to cut costs and churn out students faster, the system must look at reining in so-called professional students who tarry in school while taxpayers foot most of the bill. His idea is to make students pay the full cost of their education once their number of units hits 10 percent beyond what is required to graduate.

To some Chico State faculty members, that sounds like a bad idea and one that could actually hurt students.

“I don’t like the term ‘excessive units,'” said Paul Persons, who sits on the Academic Senate. He suggested that how or whether to cap units is a decision that should be made at each campus, and the CSU should not punish students who are working toward legitimate academic goals.

“If we don’t take some steps, a policy might be imposed upon us,” he said. The state’s Department of Finance is even suggesting that students working toward teaching credentials should be charged as if they were graduate students.

Kathy Kaiser, a Chico State professor who sits on the CSU Board of Trustees, said the Chancellor’s Office is setting up a committee to define excess units and come up with a policy.

Most majors require between 130 and 140 units to complete, counting general education. Students who transfer from community colleges aren’t the problem; they typically carry only one unit more than their counterparts who started at a CSU.

Persons pointed out that students could legitimately rack up units while acquiring a minor, a double major or participating in an exchange or community service program. That’s not to mention the fact that students often have to stick around because they can’t get the classes they need to graduate and have to fill out their schedules in the meantime.

The latter is an issue for Andrew Herum, an engineering junior approached on campus and asked about the excessive-units debate. “We have to be a full-time student to keep financial aid,” he said. But some of his required courses are only offered once a year, and he has to wait for them.

Matt Bauer, an engineering junior who transferred to Chico State in 2001 with 70 units, said there’s no reason to rush students who are working hard at school. “For those who are here to learn a lot, that’s ridiculous.

"I think if they want people to get in and get out, this is the wrong approach," he said, suggesting also that students get better academic counseling and guidance. "We’re here to find a focus. We’re here to take classes and learn things."