By Shelby Cuomo
As students begin to think about spring term courses, graduation requirements undoubtedly become a consideration.
From our first days on campus we are advised about and aware of most major requirements and general education requirements, but there is one policy most Union students are unaware of.
This is the college’s 12-term residency requirement, a policy that mandates Union students have to attend Union—and subsequently pay tuition—for 12 terms in order to graduate.
I was unaware of this policy until last term, when I realized that after winter term, I would have met all the course and credit requirements for graduation, due to extra credits I had received on my mini-term and AP high school courses.
When I mentioned this to my parents, they were proud and relieved, especially since I am attending law school in the fall. Saving money for one term would be a great financial help for me.
When I mentioned this to my advisor, however, he confronted me with the 12-term requirement. He suggested I talk to the Dean of Academics to see if there was any way around this.
Upon meeting with the Dean of Academics, he informed me that there were ways around this requirement, but nothing I could actively do at this point.
These few exceptions to the 12-term requirement include being a Union Scholar or Seward Fellow. If I had been aware that being a part of either of these programs would have been my only way to graduate early—something I did not know I qualified for until senior year—I would have applied or agreed to be considered for them.
However, involvement in these programs has to be decided before entering college freshman year in the case of Scholars, or early sophomore year in the case of Seward Fellows.
Thus, instead of being able to save money for law school, I am met with this graduation requirement that is forcing me to pay tuition in order to take unnecessary electives for 10 weeks.
I soon realized that other Union students have been met with this obstacle and share similar sentiments towards the policy. Curt Myers ‘15 was first confronted with this requirement when presented an opportunity to work on the most recent presidential campaign. “I had been working on Governor Romney’s presidential campaign over the summer and the previous winter. Unfortunately, I was met with this requirement that I had to physically be on the Union campus for 12 terms in order to graduate on time. I did not have the luxury of being able to graduate late as I need to graduate by June 2015 in order to remain eligible for the Marine Corps program that I am in. I was then forced to commute from the campaign headquarters in Boston to Union College almost every week (a six hour roundtrip) in order to qualify my fall term as a graduation-eligible term.”
Given the rarity of this great political opportunity, it is unfortunate that this requirement made it extremely inconvenient to pursue.
There are also students who have been met with this requirement after already taking one term off. Amanda Weld ‘14, after taking last winter term off to train with Olympians for horseback riding, was informed that she would need to complete an extra term in order to graduate.
Weld, however, had made sure she would be able to finish all her course and credit requirements before taking the term off.
Consequently, in this extra term she will be paying tuition to take electives. She shared her opinions on the policy, stating, “I think it is unreasonable that Union mandates that students must be here for 12 terms, even if they have the credits to graduate in 11.”
Kyle Lanzit ‘13 was also met with a similar response after he learned that he had to be away from Union last fall term in order to complete his initial entry training for the military. He stated, “At the very least, I would appreciate more transparency about the 12-term residency requirement. It is difficult to find any concrete answers.”
Lanzit, like Weld, will now have to complete the 12-term requirement during an extra term, which he will do next fall.
As one of my friends exclaimed, Union seems to be putting money ahead of its students. For those of us who are able to meet all of the other graduation requirements early, is it really necessary to receive the tuition check for one extra term?
Working on a presidential campaign, training with Olympians and preparing for military service are all amazing opportunities that should be celebrated by Union. Instead, the futures of these students are being compromised by this requirement for, as the O’Jays put it, “The Love of Money.” If it is to the advantage of a student to graduate early, either to further himself or herself in a career or to help save money for future endeavors, then why should Union hold them back?