REPORT: Exploring Students' Motivations for Credit Accumulation


Prepared for BCCAT by Academica Group

Published September 2021

Download/View:    REPORT    

Building on earlier quantitative BCCAT research assessing number of credits required for graduation (2010, 2020), this study sought to use a qualitative analysis to explore the reasons why students collect more credits than required for their credential(s) and their general feelings towards accumulation of excess credit.

The results of the literature review showed that students in the United States, Canada, and BC completed more credits than was required for their degree programs. The numbers of excess credits accumulated varied by program, transfer status, and, in some studies, demographic factors. Reasons for accumulating excess credits fell broadly into two categories: individual-level motivations (e.g., curiosity about other subjects, timing of choosing a major, and skills development) and systemic issues (e.g., transfer inefficiencies, advising support, and course scheduling).

Interviews with nearly 50 UBC baccalaureate students (transfer and non-transfer) revealed that around 70% of interviewees anticipated graduating with credits in excess of their program requirements. Around 80% of transfer students anticipated graduating with excess credits, while 42% of all transfer interviewees reported completing coursework at UBC that duplicated coursework from their previous institution(s).

Switching programs within UBC (i.e., program transfer, or “swirling”) was less prominent as the cause of excess credits. The reasons for excess credits included prerequisites and courses offered only once per academic year; this was particularly true in science and engineering programs. A significant majority (80%) of interviewees both transfer and non-transfer who had taken courses outside of their program requirements anticipated that competencies they learned in these courses would help them in their planned career.

Students’ feelings towards excess credits were complicated - close to half of interviewees considered them a waste of time or money, while 39% stated that they could be useful or beneficial. Several less-expected motivations for accumulating excess credits included wanting to increase GPA, a desire to comply with certifications requiring different courses from the program requirements (i.e., CPA), and excess credits earned due to transferring International Baccalaureate high-school credits.