“[It’s] libre—walang bayad.”
([It’s] free—as in, no fees will be collected.)
Vice Chancellor for Academics (VCA) Dr. Robert Roleda points to such as one of the appeals of the University’s recently-announced free electives and minor programs.
To differentiate the two, he explains, “[For] free electives, each course could be in different disciplines. But in a free minor, all free electives are [under] one discipline.” Both, however, are being offered to all undergraduate students, regardless of their college or batch, starting this Term 3 of Academic Year 2019-2020.
The “free” moniker, the VCA reveals, refers to two aspects: first is to indicate subjects that students can take “beyond [their] curriculum”. This is envisioned to better prepare students for future “disruptions or changes” in the job industry. “It is increasingly becoming important for people to have a wider perspective beyond the discipline they are taking,” he justifies.
Its other meaning—being completely free of charge—is meant to “encourage Lasallians to explore other disciplines.” Roleda points out that if tuition would be charged for these additional subjects, “the likelihood is that very few Lasallians will take that direction.”
However, a subject already part of a student’s main flowchart cannot be taken for free. Roleda clarifies, “[An] elective is a free elective if it is not required in your curriculum. [If] it is required, you can take it, [but] it will not be libre.”
Meeting the requirements
Undergraduates can enroll in at most 12 units’ worth of free electives without paying for the corresponding tuition fees. The caveat, however, is the limit of three units per term covered under this arrangement; hypothetically, if one opts to enroll in nine units of free electives for one term, they would have to pay for the other six units beyond the free three units.
Students who intend to enroll in an elective have to wait until the special adjustment period—from July 1 to 7 this Term 3. This is separate from regular enlistment, but would ideally follow a similar process of utilizing the Animo.sys facility, or for this term, through Google Forms.
However, students are prohibited from enlisting in a class with more than 40 students. The decision was made “so that the free electives will not crowd [out] the students who actually need the subject,” the VCA justifies.
He further reiterates that “free electives [are not] new subjects” and the courses will be treated by the respective faculty as is, given these are just regular offerings and students taking them up as unprogrammed electives would simply be filling up the remaining slots available for these classes.
Alternatively, students can also opt for a free minor program, which consists of a predetermined set of courses totaling 12 units and offered under a single department. The three-unit maximum per term provision still applies, though, if students wish to accomplish their minor degree completely free of charge.
The Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC College of Education (BAGCED), on the other hand, offers an 18-unit Teacher Education Program. “You can take [the] 12 [units] for free, then you just have to pay for the six extra,” Roleda clarifies.
However, prerequisite requirements still stand as they normally would for designated classes. College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Dean Dr. Jazmin Llana mentions that students intending to take certain elective subjects or a minor program in Psychology, for example, would need to accomplish introductory courses first. They would be “allowed to take [the prerequisite] together with another one of the courses offered on the same term”—albeit only one of the courses would be free-of-charge as per the announced provisions. She does assure, though, that most of CLA’s course offerings “are open without prerequisites.”
School of Economics (SOE) Associate Dean Dr. Mitzie Conchada, meanwhile, cites a number of requirements for students applying for a minor in Economic Studies: the submission of the student’s grades; the accomplished application form; and proof of attendance in the corresponding minor program orientation.
Other departments, however, may have different requirements for students, such as a minimum grade requirement. Llana advises students to inquire with the academic departments if there are other “specific requirements of specific minor programs or electives.”
Carpe diem—with caution
Minor programs have already been developed by SOE—though still awaiting approval from the Commission on Higher Education—CLA, and BAGCED. The College of Computer Studies, on the other hand, is due this term to present its offerings to the Academics Council, while the departments under the Gokongwei College of Engineering have yet to design any minor programs.
The deans of the College of Science and Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business were also approached for comment, but neither have responded as of press time.
Students who successfully apply for a minor program would undergo a change in their degree: “Your degree code will change so that [the] minor will also appear on [the] Transcript [of Records],” Roleda explains. Upon admission to their new minor degree, the student will also be documented as having “shifted to a new program incorporating the minor for the purpose of record-keeping,” as per the released guidelines. Consequently, the minor program will also be reflected on the student’s diploma.
Transferring from one minor to another is also possible, but would require students to “drop [their] first minor and then shift to a new minor,” the VCA clarifies. Dropping a free minor program or elective would incur no additional cost, being already free-of-charge in the first place. However, Roleda advises against doing so, to ensure that students have “enough time to do the [minor program]”.
Instead, he suggests “strategizing” as to the electives they wish to take, encouraging students to take up free electives from different departments. He even promotes the idea of enrolling in subjects not limited to the undergraduate level, saying, “You could actually even take a graduate course as an elective, if you qualify for [its] prerequisite.”
While the elective courses live up to their “free” moniker, they could nevertheless influence students’ academic standing. Minor programs and electives would be included in calculations for the students’ respective cumulative and trimestral Grade Point Average, Transcript of Records, and maximum units of failure accumulated. As such, Roleda cautions, “While it is libre, as in walang bayad, we have to take it seriously.”
(While it is free, as in no fees, we have to take it seriously.)