Bhushan Deshpande | Words of Wisdom
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 02:10
This December, I will have completed everything I need to graduate. 34 credits? Check. Distribution requirements? Done. Foundation requirements? All set. Major? Quant econ, complete. Residency requirement?
There is an interesting rule at Tufts buried in one obscure sentence of the Bulletin: You need to have stayed on campus for eight semesters to graduate. It doesn’t matter how quickly you finish your major or how quickly you reach the required minimum number of credits; if you haven’t fulfilled the residency requirement, you can’t graduate.
There are two exceptions: study abroad and pre-matriculation credits.
Pre-matriculation credits are exactly what they sound like, credits earned before matriculation. In my case, the AP exams I took would have been enough to start me with seven credits when I matriculated on Sept. 1, 2010. Tufts caps Arts and Sciences students at five pre-matriculation credits, exactly what is required to graduate a semester early.
The residency requirement is not unique to Tufts. Here are just a few examples: Amherst College across the state has it, Brown University down in Rhode Island has it and Stanford all the way across the country has it. One thing common to all is none of them, from a cursory look at their websites, even try to justify why someone who has completed all of the general graduation requirements should be required to stay for a final semester.
Tufts, to its credit, does try to do that. As the Bulletin puts it, “Four years of full-time study in an academic environment provide the opportunity to explore a varied curriculum at a reasonable pace; to interact with and learn from fellow students representing a variety of national, ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds; to be enriched by study in a foreign country and to survey the cultural, recreational, and educational opportunities of Boston and New England.”
However, it is not especially difficult to come into Tufts and “explore” 34 credits of the curriculum in seven semesters. It is even easier to do that once AP/IB scores are taken into consideration. It is a classist system that helps the students who grew up in wealthy school districts, but a fair amount of Tufts comes in with them. With them, it is possible to graduate early without even having to take five or more credits in any semester.
“Enriched by study in a foreign country?” Setting aside that a majority of Tufts students do not go abroad, even the ones who do get credit towards graduation, making it irrelevant as to whether they need the full eight semesters to finish the requirements. And lastly, and perhaps most vitally, it is not necessary to be a full time student to interact with people of varied backgrounds and to survey the opportunities of New England.
If anything, being a full time student hinders that. Once I graduate in January, I will still be able to see my friends, meet new people, attend events on campus (after all, I did pay that Student Activities Fee) and actually explore New England rather than being bogged down by coursework on weekends. It is hard to anticipate regularly having to go into work instead of being free all day to explore all that this region that I have lived in for seventeen years has to offer. It’s not that being in college isn’t wonderful, but it is possible to be connected to campus without paying $29,000 a semester.
Tufts should be honest about what its motivations for keeping the residency requirement are. If it was what they said it was, there would be no reason to let those students whose high school backgrounds allowed for the accumulation of AP credits to graduate early. It is simply that the administration can wring additional tuition from the student body this way.
Bhushan Deshpande is a senior majoring in quantitative economics. He can be reached at Bhushan.Deshpande@tufts.edu.