There is a problem with the new Soundings program that was adopted last year. Megan Hackey, a freshman Theatre Arts major, was the first to step on the landmine.
When Hackey registered for classes she was told she would be charged additional fees for overloading her 18-credit schedule.
Hackey will have to pay close to $400 to overload her schedule next semester to fit in her required Sounings credit.
“My initial reaction was: I need to go to my advisor and drop Soundings,” Hackey said. “I have a schedule I want to stick to, but I know I need to pass Soundings to graduate”
She plans to take 18 credits, a full course load, every semester so she can graduate in four years.
However, Soundings is getting in the way. Current freshman and recent transfers need to complete one credit Soundings course their freshman year requiring six events, a half credit course in which they attend four events, and a cumulating half credit course their junior year in the form of attending three events and writing an essay.
But Hackey’s real problem is all about money.
It’s not about the program or the Soundings experience; it’s about the half credit that pushes her course load over the 18-credit maximum, she said.
“Soundings isn’t a punishment or a hassle,” Hackey said. “It’s just that college is so expensive and if you want to take a full course load you end up paying more for it in the end.”
According to Bill Allen the Dean of Administration, this glitch in the Soundings program was a concern from the beginning and efforts were made to avoid the problem.
“If we came up with one solution to fix it we’d have a whole bunch of other problems pop up,” Allen said. “There was no yes/no answer or a simple solution.”
It was proposed that the tuition fee for the half credit overload be waived. But that solution was impossible, according to Tony Peffer, the Academic Dean and member of the committee responsible for restructuring Soundings.
The committee tried to increase the maximum credits to 19 so 18.5 credits would not be an overload and would result in no additional fees, Peffer said. However, since Castleton is a member of the VSC system any changes made to Castleton would also have to apply to other institutions as well.
“Can’t just make a CSC change; it would affect other schools forcing them to give up tuition,” Peffer said.
Financial aid repercussions were also an issue. If the overload fee was waived, Peffer feared VSAC might take money back from students.
There was no successful way to solve the inevitable problem.
“From my perspective, the value of the Soundings requirement offsets the overload cost,” Peffer said.
It is just a problem for students who take 18 credits, which isn’t everybody.
“I know I’m in the minority,” said Hackey, the frustrated freshman. “It’s a small thing now. But as it progresses and people have to take Soundings their junior year, which is a busy year for most people, the extra half credit will throw scheduling off balance.”
Hackey discussed her problem with the SGA.
“We decided all we can do right now is petition,” said SGA member Catherine Trudell. “We will get some signatures, writes something up and take it to the administration.