Overload requests from seniors nearly tripled in one year

An associate dean said he doesn’t know the reason for the jump


Photo by Hannah Denham.

Maya Lora

Overload requests from seniors nearly tripled over the last academic year. 

There were 100 requests for overloads in the 2018 fall term, 21 of which were from seniors, according to numbers provided by University Registrar Scott Dittman. For fall term 2019, the number jumped to 150 requests, with 57 requests from seniors.

The class of 2020 is the first class to graduate under the 120 minimum credit requirement for graduation. The previous catalog only required 113 credits, but the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools required Washington and Lee to increase the minimum.

Fred LaRiviere, an associate dean of the college who helps approve overload requests below 18 credits, said he doesn’t see a correlation between the senior overload request increase and the 120 credit requirement. 

At the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year, 68 seniors had fewer than 90 credits, Dittman said. Students should complete 30 credits on average per year to reach 120 by graduation. 

But of those 68, Dittman said, most are waiting on credits from summer work or study abroad. Therefore, the registrar is only focused on 24 of those students, which Dittman said is “right on target” for a senior class. He said most of those students failed a class, repeated a class or are awaiting credits from study abroad. 

Since the registrar isn’t carefully watching more students than usual, LaRiviere said he isn’t sure why the number of senior overload requests has gone up. Not all of the requesters need the extra credits. 

For example, to meet 120, some seniors wouldn’t be able to spring option. 

“They could easily get to 120 with the spring course added in,” LaRiviere said. 

But, he added, they may still get approved for an overload if they meet all the necessary requirements. 

For the upcoming winter semester, there are 100 overload requests thus far, as compared to 113 in 2018, LaRiviere said. Senior requests doubled again: from 18 seniors last year requesting overloads to 36 for winter term. 

LaRiviere said that of the requests, only four or five of the seniors need the overload approved to get to 120. Others want to finish a second major or minor or need additional credits for qualification exams, such as the CPA exam for aspiring accountants. 

But not all students are automatically approved. 

One senior, who declined to disclose their name in order to discuss mental health, won’t know if they will be allowed to overload until the end of fall term. If they don’t get approval to register for 16 credits, they will be one credit short of graduating, even with a five-credit spring term. 

The student has to finish fall term without any incompletes or failed classes, due to previous academic history. The student has taken incompletes and dropped classes for medical reasons in the past. 

The student said they are frustrated because they only need nine credits to finish their major and minor. 

“It’s not about academic standing, it’s not about the curriculum. It’s literally just a numbers game,” the senior said. 

If the student doesn’t receive overload approval, they’ll have to take an online class and pay for it out of pocket. “I either have to have a very stressful term or pay for something I can’t afford to pay for,” the student said. 

The student said that when they brought up taking a term off for mental health reasons to the administration, they were told that it would be better if they stayed to graduate in May. 

“The point was to graduate on time,” the student said. “And so now it’s like I did all that and fought through times when I really shouldn’t have been here [for nothing].” 

LaRiviere said he’s keeping an eye on the numbers and will be more concerned if the increase happens again for fall 2020 registration.

An earlier version of this report mistakenly stated students should earn 90 credits on average per year to graduate with 120. Students need 30 credits per year on average to reach the graduation requirement.