In an effort to improve student mental health, Cornell University’s College of Engineering will reduce the maximum number of credits students can take each semester, the college announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to a universitywide mental health review, completed in 2020, which recommends a number of measures to reduce student stress and anxiety. They include implementing grading on a curve, mandating meetings between students and advisers, exploring pass-fail assessments, and establishing a credit limit at each college.

For engineering students, that means beginning next semester, they will be limited to a maximum of 20 credits per semester, down from the current 23. The total number of credits required for a degree remains unchanged and varies by major. About 13 percent of engineering students took more than 20 credits last semester, and 0.5 percent took more than 24, according to a Cornell spokesperson.

The mental health review “specifically cited academic credit limits as an effective strategy for decreasing student stress and anxiety in a manner that complements our emphasis on excellence,” engineering deans Alan Zehnder and Miranda Swanson wrote in a statement to Inside Higher Ed.

After more than a year of internal discussions and faculty input, the College Curriculum Governing Board approved the change for the engineering college. It is also reducing the “hard cap”—the extent to which students can exceed the limit—from 27 to 24 credits, Zehnder and Swanson explained. Students enrolled in certain workshops or a physical education course are allowed to go up to 24 credits; others who want to exceed the 20-credit limit must submit a petition to get permission.

“The Cornell Engineering community aims for excellence in everything we do, including our efforts to foster and sustain a diverse, engaged, and caring environment where all members can flourish,” read the statement from Zehnder and Swanson. “In addition to ensuring that students are intentional about the courses they enroll in and do not overextend themselves in the short term, adherence to a reasonable credit limit signals to all students the importance of maintaining balance that will be critical for sustained success over the course of their lives and careers.”

The credit-limit change comes as institutions nationwide are grappling with rampant student mental health issues, heightened by the disruption and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. STEM students have been especially hard-hit, said Norman Fortenberry, executive director of the American …….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *