Undergraduates will now need to take fewer credit hours in order to graduate.

The UNM Faculty Senate cut the minimum number of credit hours required to graduate from 128 to 120 at a meeting at the end of last month.

Faculty Senate President Richard Holder said the final vote to approve the decrease will go into effect right away. He said the senate decided to pass the proposal because it would make more sense for students trying to graduate on time.

“We had 128, which doesn’t make any mathematical sense,” he said. “If you think that people should graduate in eight semesters, eight into 128 doesn’t give you anything useful.”

Associate Provost Greg Heileman said students go by the catalog requirements that are in place at the time of enrollment. He said if the program they are enrolled in decides to decrease their requirements to 120 credit hours, then the students can go to their advisors to request those catalog standards.

“Basically what this does, is it says any baccalaureate degree at UNM has the option of reducing their credit hours from 128 to 120 if they choose to do so,” he said. “And if they do, a student who comes in… can switch over to a new program as soon as it’s approved.”

Heileman said the 128 credit hour requirement was only stipulated in the catalog. He said the Board of Regents and the University President didn’t need to approve the proposal.

“This is a change to existing policy that went up to the Faculty Senate,” he said.

The senate also decided to decrease the minimum credit hour requirements because most other universities require 120, Holder said. He said students take more courses than necessary to graduate, and lowering the required number of credit hours could help with the graduation rate.

“A typical student, to graduate, takes about 165 hours here, even though 128 were required until last month,” he said. “So, by dropping that down a little bit, maybe people will graduate a little faster, and maybe the graduation rate will go up a little bit.”

Holder said he believes only one or two faculty senators were in opposition to the proposal.

Heileman said in an email sent to the Daily Lobo that the University was only concerned the potential decrease in program quality resulting from the credit-hour requirement decrease. He said programs would not have to remove hours if it would be detrimental to them.

“This proposal only lowers the minimum — no program will be required to remove credit hours from their curriculum if they believe that action would do harm,” he said. “That said, for virtually any degree program, there are high-quality examples in other states where the curriculum requires only 120 credit hours.”

Programs across the University are creating their own 120-hour plans in response to this change, Heileman said.

“University College is very close to creating the first 120 credit hour degrees at UNM,” he said. “Specifically, their Bachelor’s of Liberal Arts and Bachelor’s of Integrative Studies programs are close to receiving final approval for the 120-credit-hour degree programs they have proposed.”

Heileman said the decrease in credit hours required could have a positive impact on students financially.

“Most importantly this will help students, as a more timely path to graduation will allow them to graduate sooner and thus assume less student loan debt,” he said. “With the problem of Lottery Scholarship solvency, the amount of scholarship money available to students, relative to the total cost of education, is likely to decrease.  So, anything we can do to expedite timely graduation will benefit our students in terms of accumulating less student loan debt.” 

Holder said he thinks this new requirement will force departments to re-evaluate their programs to figure out how many courses they really need. But some programs might still require more than 120 hours.

“Some programs will need more than 120,” he said. “I think we knew that going in. And they’re still free to do that. But I think some others could probably get down to 120 pretty easily.”