Dr. Joseph M. Pisano is a professor and director of musical ensembles at Grove City College. For some time he has been pushing to allow students to take marching band for credit free of charge. Marching band is one of the most frequently audited classes available, while also being very demanding. Many students, including myself, love band but can’t take it for credit due to not being able to afford extra classes. However, Dr. Pisano recently spoke to the band, saying that he believed the college would allow the class to be taken for free next year. Needless to say, this is both innovative and exciting!
It needs to be asked, of course, what the college loses by allowing a free credit. Marching band is worth one credit, so allowing students to take it for free means that the college will lose the price of an extra credit for every student in the band. Even if a student was previously taking the class for credit, now they can use that credit for another class. Some students may have their grades negatively impacted if they attempt to fit marching band into an overburdened schedule. So if the college is going to lose both money and potential students to such a policy, why would they adopt it?
The simple reason is that for every objection raised in the last paragraph, the allowance of band for a free credit will create benefits that will outweigh each negative. While it is true the college loses some money by allowing students a free band credit, even a single student’s decision being swayed to attend Grove City would pay for all of those credits by itself from that student’s tuition. As one of those students who very nearly went somewhere else, I can definitively say that Grove City College’s marching band was a deciding factor in my attendance!
While some students grades may drop marginally in other classes, marching band’s grade is based only on attendance, making it an easy A for most students. This would have the effect of raising student’s net GPA, regardless of whether they took a slight hit in other classes. In addition, for all the students who already audit marching band-a significant minority!-allowing them to take it for credit would only provide a boost to GPA.
Finally, the marching band is one of the primary attractions for Grove City College. Even aside from the prior anecdote about how the presence of a marching band influences student’s school choice, having the marching band go out and perform increases the college’s exposure. The marching band is great advertisement for the college, which is one reason the band attends so many non-college related marching events, such as parades and band festivals.
So while the college may lose a small amount of money by giving a free credit, the overall benefits far outweigh the negative impact such a decision would have. By innovating in this manner, the college would gain a great deal of exposure, weigh future student’s choices in its favor, and, of course, make current students very happy!