Verbum Ultimum: The Cost of Change

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 1/10/13 11:00pm

The College recently announced that it will no longer accept pre-matriculation credits beginning with the Class of 2018. As a result of this policy change, new students will be unable to count Advanced Placement, A-Level and International Baccalaureate examination results as credits towards their diploma. While the reasons for this change are entirely understandable, the College must nonetheless work to address the financial consequences that this change may have on many students.

When the faculty voted to approve this policy change, they had good reasons to do so. It is often the case that AP and IB courses do not cover relevant material with the same depth or rigor as a comparable Dartmouth course. As a result, many faculty members believe that permitting pre-matriculation credits compromises the value of their own academic programs. As students, we should also be concerned with maintaining the integrity of our own Dartmouth degrees.

The policy change raised two concerns. The first is that ending pre-matriculation credits will force better-prepared students to take unnecessary introductory courses. This concern is unwarranted, for departments will still be able to exempt prepared students from introductory courses as they see fit. The mathematics department, for instance, will allow students who took calculus during high school to skip Math 3 and 8.

But a second concern is far more serious. By no longer permitting pre-matriculation credits, the College has increased the number of terms that it will take to complete an undergraduate degree, and thus increased the financial burden on some students. A student in the Class of 2017 who matriculates with three AP credits will potentially be able to graduate after 11 terms of study instead of 12. However, an otherwise comparable member of the Class of 2018 will be forced to study for a 12th quarter. If tuition, fees, room and board continue to rise over the next six years as quickly as they have over the last six, this extra quarter will cost nearly $25,000.

The administration noted that students may take four courses per term for up to three terms without paying extra tuition, but this does not fully address the problem. After all, three courses is already considered a full workload. For many students, taking a fourth course can be an added source of stress, especially if they have significant extra-curricular and employment commitments.

While we recognize the reasons behind ending pre-matriculation credits, the administration must keep in mind how this change will affect the problem of affordability. Dartmouth currently has the second-highest annual tuition among the Ivy League, led only by Columbia University. This is in spite of the fact that living costs in the areas surrounding Hanover are significantly lower than in the areas in which our peer institutions are located. Unless the administration does something to address this problem, it will only be worsened by the policy of no longer allowing pre-matriculation credits. In order to remain competitive, the College must do more to address affordability.