Sprinting to the finish line

Greg Kane

Think you’ve got a heavy workload this semester? Get a load of senior Leta Bryant’s class schedule.

History of Ethics, Philosophy of the Mind, Philosophy of Law, Advanced Composition…

Don’t go anywhere. There’s more.

…Theory of Knowledge, Intelligence and Espionage, Beginning Soccer… Still there?

…Metaphysics, Bio-Ethics and Advanced Weight Training. That’s 10 classes, for those who weren’t counting. That adds up to 26 units. That’s insane.

“Last year, I realized that all I had to do was take 12 units in the summer and 26 units each semester and I could graduate,” says Bryant, a philosophy major. “That way I could graduate a year early.”

The average full-time student enrolls for approximately 28 units a year, according university statistics. When she graduates in May, assuming she passes all of her classes, Bryant will have taken 64 units since summer 2002. She’s 19 years old and about to receive a college degree. At this rate, she’ll have her law degree by Christmas.

Why the rush? “I don’t want to be in school for the rest of my life,” Bryant says. “I want to go to law school and start working and making some money. I want to live my life.”

This semester, 1,868 students registered for 18 or more units, according to university statistics. Some are trying to graduate early so they can start looking for jobs. Others want to save some money by condensing semesters. Many are just tired of school. Whatever it is, there are a whole lot of Sac State students like Bryant who are in a big hurry to grab that diploma.

“I’m just sick of being in school,” says senior Monica Borchard, who is taking 20 units combined at Sac State and American River College this semester. She’s got five classes, plus an internship at the UC Davis Medical Center, plus a night job as a bartender. “I’m nuts. I know this.”

Since spring 2002, Borchard has enrolled in 59 units — about 20 a semester. She’ll graduate in May with a degree in health science, a fact that motivates her when her workload feels particularly heavy.

“Knowing that I’m graduating in two-and-a-half months helps motivate me to keep going,” Borchard says. “It’s really going fast (this semester). The idea that I’ll be done with school is really great.” Navigating the sheer volume of papers, midterms and assignments that comes with so many courses can be pain, Borchard says. On the first day of school this semester, she took each class syllabus and entered all major dates and assignments onto a calendar. “Then I planned my life accordingly,” she says.

Bryant has a similar planning system, although hers includes a day planner, a desk calendar and a weekly calendar in addition to an itemized list of assignments. Of course, when you have an estimated 25 papers to write over the course of a semester — not to mention a part-time job at a real estate management company — you need as much planning as possible.

“I had to learn that I wasn’t able to do everything,” Bryant says. “I just have to keep working and figure out what I can get away with. That’s the one thing that’s kind of disappointing for me, that I can’t learn as much as I’d like in my classes.”

Ah, there’s the rub. The more classes you take, the less you end up learning. It all depends on what you really want from school — the education or the degree. In a perfect world, students would come to Sac State hungry for knowledge. They would take classes because the subject interests them, not because it fills the Area D2 requirement. They would come here, in short, for an education.

Enlightenment comes at a price, however. Taking four classes a semester may give students more time to learn the material, but it also adds a year or two to their stay. With tuition and parking becoming more and more expensive, you might be better off taking extra classes now — and reading the book later.

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