Senate Bill 1231, enacted by the 80th Texas Legislature, states "an institution of higher education may not permit a student to drop more than six courses, including any course a transfer student has dropped at another institution of higher education." The new statute applies to students who enroll in a public institution of higher education as first-time freshmen in fall 2007 or later.
A letter has already been sent to all entering UTPA freshmen informing them of the new law and its implications said Dr. Magdalena Hinojosa, associate vice president for Enrollment and Student Services and dean of Undergraduate Admissions.
"This means a student may not drop more than six courses throughout their college career. In addition, any courses that are dropped will remain in the six course count should the student decide to transfer from one higher education institution to another," she said. "Since the law applies to all public funded schools, this also means that students who transfer from a community college or technical school will find their dropped courses transferring with them."
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) defines a dropped course as "a course in which an undergraduate student at an institution of higher education has enrolled for credit but did not complete." Course drops necessitated when withdrawing from the institution or those finalized before a campus' official census date, which is used for official student enrollment counts, will not count toward the dropped course limit according to emergency rules established by the THECB to enforce the legislation.
Hinojosa said this means for fall 2007, any course dropped at UTPA prior to Sept. 12, 2007, UTPA's official fall 2007 census date, will not count toward the six course limitation.
Exemptions for drops beyond the maximum six, for reasons of good cause, like active military service, severe illness, change in work schedule, for example, will be available. Each institution of higher education is to adopt a policy and procedure for determining a show of good cause. As soon as more specific detail on exemption criteria and procedures become available, administrators will notify students Hinojosa said.
UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas said the University is working closely with, and seeking guidance from the THECB and the Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (TACRAO) to develop the internal processes necessary to ensure compliance.
"We will also work with them as we develop a tracking mechanism and a transcript reporting process. Additionally, our institutional Academic Policies Committee will begin meetings right away to review these issues," she said.
Cárdenas also said along with the communication system already set up to notify students, she has requested all sections of the UTPA required freshman course – Learning Framework – to emphasize the drop issue and encourage students to stay in their registered classes.
A statewide committee put together by THECB and TACRAO to assist with the interpretation of the law will include UTPA associate vice president for Enrollment and Student Services Dennis McMillan, who said he hoped to be able to provide input from UTPA's perspective.
"The needs of South Texas students may be different than those in other parts of the state," he said.
The legislation regarding dropped classes was primarily intended as another means to encourage timely graduation and discourage a practice called "course fishing," in which students sign up for more than the minimum courses to hunt for one that might be easier because of being allowed to drop courses within an allowable time frame.
Hinojosa said "course fishing" has not been common at UTPA due to registration regulations already in place. Nonetheless, UTPA is committed to implementing and enforcing the policies and processes which have been required by the legislation's passage she said.
For more information, contact William Morris, UTPA registrar, at 956/381-2201.