Credit at Nonstop

Aug 21st, 2008

By Jill Becker, Nonstop Faculty — Letter to the Yellow Springs News

The subject of credit has been coming up a lot recently in conversations. People that I know and respect have said to me, as a faculty member with the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute, “How can you charge money when you don’t even offer credit?” as if to say, “How can you charge for dental work, when you don’t do dental work?” Credit is a known currency. It needs to be earned and, at the same time, it costs money.

Throughout my teaching career at Antioch College and other institutions, I have had discussions with students about whether or not they could still get credit when they had fallen behind in class. When the education gets reduced to whether or not someone can get credit, I feel a bit queasy. Former Antioch Professor Ann Filemyr would tell students who had fallen behind that they could still come to class for the educational experience, even though they would not be able to get credit.

I have also had many students at Antioch College audit classes, when their required classes fill up all of the credits that they are able to take, but they still wanted to be in dance class. It was a valued part of their education, with or without credit.

The faculty of Nonstop would very much like to be offer classes for credit in our upcoming semester, but we can not do so right now. Some nearby institutions have expressed an interest in letting Nonstop classes become accredited, on an interim basis, through their institution. That will not be in place for this fall. We will be offering classes that follow the guidelines of credit bearing classes, where a 3 credit class has 3 hours of “seat” time for the requisite number of weeks. The degree of difficulty and the expectation of student effort and workload will be the equivalent of a college course. We want to be sure that our students can demonstrate, through portfolios, that they have done the work equivalent of a 3 credit course if they choose to transfer into another college or enroll at the future Antioch College.

We would also love to offer our courses free of charge. The faculty and staff of the NLAI are being funded largely by the Antioch College Alumni Association. These alumni want to keep the faculty here in the hopes of reopening Antioch College in the near future. The community has been supportive of the effort as well, with low cost spaces offered in area churches and free space in people’s homes. At the same time, we do need to pay the bills: office and classroom rent, utilities, insurance, etc…the usual. There are some scholarships available, and the Nonstop community is committed to making this education available. No interested student will be turned away.

Our essential goal at the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute is to offer a rich curriculum with a high level of intellectual and creative engagement. Classes will be small with room for students to work with each other and the teachers in exploring ideas while developing a personal voice. There will be an emphasis on integrated and experiential learning. At the end of each course, students will receive written evaluations of course work. Student experience will go on resumes to show the range of study and competencies achieved. For several years, many kinds of life experience have been converted into college credit when applicants are accepted into educational institutions. Noncredit bearing experience is also factored in when seeking employment. Employers want to know what the applicant can do, how well can s/he think, speak, write, dance, We can not offer credit now, but we do offer dental work.

Jill Becker, Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute

Speaking as an individual faculty member