News Editor Megan Byrne explains the credit-cut to the undergraduate curriculum announced earlier this week.
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has for years, been one of the most expensive non-profit colleges in the nation, however, SAIC is taking steps to lower the costs of attending. SAIC president Walter Massey announced a major change to the undergraduate curriculum, cutting the total amount of credits necessary to graduate by six, which will take effect on September 1, 2015. To obtain an undergraduate degree from SAIC, students in the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) track are required to take 132 credits to graduate, while students in the BFA with an emphasis in Art Education are required to take 138 credits.
Rose Milkowski, Vice President of Enrollment Management, spoke to F Newsmagazine last week saying, “This is one attempt of many that we’re doing in order to try to make education at SAIC more affordable.” This credit cut would provide a choice for students to be grandfathered in to this lower credit system if it is convenient for them, meaning students will be free to continue to fulfill their credit requirements at 132 credits (or 138 credits for Art Education majors), in order to still be able to take classes they may want or see as crucial to their education, or alternatively choose the burden-relieving 126 credits.
According to Amy Honchell, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, the cut in credits was made to the general electives requirements. Honchell said, “We noticed we were requiring more credits than a lot of other institutes who offer a similar degree.” Both Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), two schools often in the same conversation as SAIC, require fewer credits to graduate than SAIC does. SCAD requires 120 credits, RISD 126 to earn a bachelors degree.
Milkowski noted that each program at SAIC has different requirements and that the changes made right before the fall semester would have a significant impact on seniors, who will be applying for graduation soon. The changes in curriculum will require students who are seniors to meet with advisors and come up with a personalized plan to aid those students in finding the best approach to “using up the credits they have left,” Milkowski said. Paul Jackson, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs for Student Advising has sent numerous emails to seniors to preschedule appointments before the semester begins. The Financial Aid Office at SAIC as well as Academic Advising has hired more advisors to help students during this time.
“We tried to make it more affordable for students. We studied the different ways to maintain the education that we deliver with slightly less credit hours,” said Milkowski. “126 became a place that you could have enough studio and academic programs while making the education at SAIC significantly more affordable.”
The full tuition for 132 credits for the 2015-2016 academic year listed on the school’s website is $189,816 at $1,438 per credit. With the six credits cut from the undergraduate curriculum, the total will be $181,188. That’s about a 4% reduction on tuition overall.
Massey’s email, only 12 days before tuition payments are due, stated the reduction of course requirements will “also allow us to keep class sizes to a manageable level for our faculty members — to an approximately 12-to-1 ratio to allow them to work more closely with students.” “We don’t expect that courses will be cancelled,” said Honchell. “We’ve been at such a high enrollment rate that we have more than enough students to satisfy filling these courses, while providing students with a little wiggle room to be able to fulfill requirements by getting into classes.”
The school’s interest in cutting the costs of attending SAIC could be a reaction to the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ listing of SAIC as the second most expensive non-profit school in the nation, after scholarships and grants. This ranking could lists the net price of the school at $43,489, with 99% of students receiving either scholarship or grants for one academic year. Both SCAD and RISD are also ranked but much farther down than SAIC, costing around $10,000 less per year.
The lower credit requirement is only being made to the undergraduate program, but SAIC is also looking to expand funding for the graduate program. Milkowski said, “We are continuing to increase scholarships, and we are now at $38.3 million, which has grown 40% over the last 5 or 6 years.”