Non-credit Physical Activity Courses offered for lower cost

Students in PAC 169 Cool Shoes, Ballroom Performance practice a choreographed routine.

Melinda Myers, News Reporter

Students taking non-credit PAC classes held to same class standards.

The Spring 2018 quarter will give rise to a new registration payment system for physical activity courses. Next term, students will be provided a non-credit option for their PAC classes, resulting in a lower fee value. 

Andrew Ibarra, the Director of Physical Activity Courses, said that PAC course enrollment has been lower than usual in the last few years. 

“In general, what we’ve been seeing, kind of a flat enrollment rate now at like 30,000-ish for OSU students. But we’ve started to see a decline in the enrollment in the physical activity classes,” Ibarra said

The shift in student enrollment happened around the time OSU changed its registration process, eliminating the initial 12-credit cap, Ibarra said.The change in the process could correlate with the drop in student numbers, but the cause could come from a number of reasons. 

“So we asked students and a lot of them were saying that the cost of both tuition and fees for each course was just too much. They still wanted to take the courses but just could not cover those costs, and as an educator I understand and feel for these students,” Ibarra said. 

Ibarra said PAC courses are meant to help provide skills and knowledge to students in order for them to engage in physical activity for the rest of their lives.

“We don’t want to become kind of an elite program where only the people with the financial means can participate, that is why we are looking at alternative options like non-credit,” Ibarra said.

Ibarra added that students can only take 11 PAC credits during their time at OSU. This could also be mitigated by the new non-credit option.

“And at some point you max out. So you can’t include them to your degree; even though they still want to take them, they’re being told, ‘You can’t get financial aid to participate in these courses,’” Ibarra said. 

Mark Baker, a ballroom instructor, has known students who have experienced maxing out credits in the PAC dance series.

“I think opening it up to being less restrictive for students, maybe for cost issues, I think it’s great. And then I have lots of students passionate about dancing, but the issue is they’ve taken too many PAC classes,” Baker said. 

“There was one guy who had like 20 PAC classes because he was taking two dance classes a term, he was loving it,” Baker said. “And then it got to the point where he couldn’t take them anymore for credit, so he couldn’t take it anymore.”

This could be a problem for students who have had time to accumulate PAC credits, or for students who are interested in higher or more advanced courses, Baker said. One such option on the dance track for students is the performance team, Cool Shoes. 

Members of the Cool Shoes team receive two PAC credits for each term enrolled, Baker said. If a student participates for six terms, they will hit their max of 12 PAC credits. 

“So I just think (non-credit PAC classes) opens up an avenue for people to be able to continue to do what they love and not be overwhelmed by credit loads,” Baker said. 

Ibarra said Winter 2018 courses were used to beta test the new payment option. 

“We did a very soft open in winter, we had a hand-selected number of courses that we were working with and didn’t really spread the word,” Ibarra said. “We did it very silently just to kind of work out any issues we might have which we would hopefully fix for a pilot in spring.”  

Lacee Rainey, a fourth-year said that if given the opportunity, she would participate in the new non-credit option. 

“There’s definitely a lot of PAC classes I wish I could take,” Rainey said. “You know, I’ve always wanted to take a dance class, but I don’t want to pay for a dance class.”

The current for-credit PAC option bases its fees on tuition rates, and includes a $49 instructional fee, Ibarra said. Classes that require specialized equipment or certification may have a higher fee. 

“So we said, ‘Great, we’ll get rid of tuition and then just charge a flat instructional rate regardless if you’re resident or non-resident, that’ll make it more equitable,’” Ibarra said. “Now where you might see differences in costs like scuba, is there’s the instructional fee but then there’s these course specific fees. So that’s like your equipment, your travel, your hotel stay for like scuba diving. Those are fixed, so those come over to the other non-credit option and now you’re paying the $132 with the course fees to get that total sum.”

The $132 total is a result of averaging out current PAC fees, Ibarra said. 

“We have had students ask, ‘How did you come up with the fees?’” Ibarra said. “We’ve actually established that $132 instructional fee to cover both the instructional cost, and then what we hope to be able to do is work within there some of the facility and equipment costs that we need.”

“So a portion of that will go to our facility renovations or equiptment updates with our 100 year old building,” Ibarra added. “An example would be getting newer exercise equipment so we can teach students they can leave our courses and go and participate in the community on similar equipment.”

The $132 value is less than the average cost of a one-credit class for an OSU student, Ibarra said. 

“So the cheapest you can get is $195 for the one-credit and then a $49 dollar fee for PAC instructional cost,” Ibarra said. “So that’s still like $244. So we said, ‘Let’s get rid of that, just do $132 and whatever the course fees are.’”

In comparison, other fitness classes are offered to students and the community through OSU Recsports such as FitPass—a program that offers over 90 fitness classes each term, according to the Recsports Fitness Pass Class webpage. Students can pay $10 per day for a fitness pass or $55 a term to participate in a range of activities. 

Overall, it’s about increasing fitness opportunities to students whether they are undergraduate, graduate, international or transfer, Ibarra said. 

Chris Eddy, a physics graduate student, participates in volleyball PAC classes and learned about the new non-credit option from his instructor. 

“I think people who didn’t do it before because it was cost prohibitive will do it now,” Eddy said. “As a graduate student, because they pay for our tuition it doesn’t really affect me. I think it’s a nice thing for undergrads who don’t have to incur like $900 of debt to do a PAC course.” 

Baker said though non-credit option students will be paying differently, what is expected of them is consistent with a student taking a for-credit option. 

“We still expect you to come to class, you’re still going to fulfill the same level of assignments, you’re going to do the exact same else as everyone else is doing. And we’ll see how it goes,” Baker said.

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