Graduating is more than a Thesis: Liberal Arts Requirements and Moratorium on Summer ISPs between some and their Diploma

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art courtesy of David Belew/Catalyst

It is an unfortunate situation when a student has gone through the thesis and baccalaureate process but is forced to remain another semester in order to graduate. With the blur of papers, labs, readings, and presentations students are faced with every week it is easy to get absorbed in studies and forget about obligations that directly pertain to one’s area of concentration.  However a student can’t get that diploma without at least seven completed contracts, three completed independent study projects, and the fulfillment of all the Liberal Arts Requirements. The recent moratorium placed on Summer ISPs may make it all the more difficult for students with a few aborts on their transcripts to graduate in four years.

The Liberal Arts Requirements stipulate that a student must take at least eight courses that are classified a Liberal Arts (LAC). An asterisk designates these courses in the Course Catalog. Out of the eights Liberal Arts Classes three have to be from each of the major divisions: Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. It wasn’t always this way. Before New College gained independence from the University of South Florida in 2001 there were no requirements. New College then adopted the policy in order to receive accreditation from Southern Associations of Colleges and Schools (SACS) as a stand-alone institution. Without accreditation degrees from New College would not be recognized by most graduate programs and places of business. Many advisors urge their students to take care of all the divisional LACs in their first year, but it is easy to get absorbed in an area of concentration and find oneself struggling to fulfill the requirements while writing a thesis.

Fourth year Erica Lindegren must take a LAC in Natural Sciences in order to graduate but has everything under control. She is currently enrolled in General Biology in a Cultural Context and plans on taking care of her requirements this semester so she can focus on her thesis in the spring. Lindegren enjoys the class and explained that the course actually fits well into her concentration of Gender Studies: “The last time I took a biology class was in ninth grade. So it has been awhile and it’s a lot different, the information is the same but the topics are expanded because you’re not in high school and can address a lot of issues that wouldn’t be proper in that setting”.  Not all fourth years are so lucky. In the past particularly blissful fourth years have gotten all the way to Baccalaureate exam but have been unable to graduate because they failed to check the status on their requirements.

Registrar Kathy Allen told me about the nature of Liberal Arts Requirements while we looked over a copy of my own graduation checklist (something all fourth years will soon be receiving from the Registrar’s office). She explained that though the requirements were not a part of New College’s original paradigm the system still affords a good deal of freedom while showing that students receive a broad education: “New College is really very fortunate. At most schools you need two of everything. Basically we just have to take one course in every division”. As Allen and I looked over my own transcript we noted how I would need one LAC in the Natural Sciences and one in the Social Sciences in order to graduate this year, but she informed me that taking a course at New College wasn’t the only way to get those precious asterisks. Past coursework often act as an LAC: “A lot of times dual enrollment or AP scores fulfill the requirement though they don’t count for credit”. She then showed me how I could go online and see my remaining requirements. A record of these courses can be found through the student evaluation system (found on the quick links page in the current students section of  Once logged in to the page, students should click on the Students Resources link to find the necessary information.  Ultimately a student needs to pass the Math and Computer literacy tests and take the aforementioned LAC classes in order to graduate.

When I asked Allen about the moratorium on Summer ISPs she informed me that it was a financial aid issue and referred me to Kathleen Killion the dean of Enrollment Services & Information Technology. In a written statement Kathleen spelled out the nuts and bolts of the shift. Like the birth of the LAC in 2001 this change in New College tradition is being made in order to comply with federal regulation: “Last year, New College students received roughly $4 million total in
federal need-based aid through grants, Federal Work Study, and Federal
Student Loans.  In order for New College to be able to disburse these
funds, and continue doing so, we have to make sure that we’re in
compliance with federal financial aid regulations.  Our current
certification requirements with the feds are based on a “4-1-4” academic
calendar (reflecting the two 4-month semesters and 1 January ISP, with
no summer term).  Summer ISPs, because they are not part of our
registered academic calendar, may place us in non-compliance.  The worst
case scenario is that non-compliance would result in our losing the
ability to disburse any federal aid to New College students (roughly
half of whom receive federal financial aid)”. Killion went on to explain that this is just now becoming an issue because of new federal regulations made in the July of this year. The regulations affect the Pell grant, a scholarship given to people with high financial need that is granted to nearly 30 % of the student body. It stipulates that students with the Pell Grant must be given aid for the summer if they are enrolled in a summer session. All students receiving the Pell grant would be unable to apply for Summer ISPs under this new system. The sense is that the summer ISP has been living in between the cracks of paperwork for some time now, a crack exposed by the new regulation. Both Killion and Allen emphasized that end of summer ISPs is not yet policy. The moratorium is a preventative measure until the staff can decide the best course of action. However with the current set up students can only take one ISP per year and it has to be in January. Students who are a few ISPs behind may have to stay a little longer than planned to get that diploma.

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