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The number of special students - non-degree-seeking students enrolled in Brown courses - has increased over the last decade from 339 to 439, according to an October report released by the Office of Institutional Research. Special students include groups such as University employees, post-baccalaureates, visiting students from other colleges, exchange students and students enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design.

RISD students made up 82 percent of undergraduate special students between 2011 and 2012, said Robert Fitzgerald, university registrar. Last semester, 153 RISD students took Brown classes, whereas only 85 Brown students enrolled in courses at RISD, according to the 2012 RISD Office of Institutional Research Fact Book. These numbers do not include dual degree students, who are considered to be enrolled full-time at both Brown and RISD.

RISD students, along with Brown employees and students at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, have cross-registration benefits that exempt them from paying the regular course tuition of around $5,000 per class, Fitzgerald said.

The majority of RISD students who enroll in Brown courses seek the variety of a liberal arts curriculum they "simply cannot find down there," Fitzgerald said.

Taking classes at Brown is becoming more popular as it grows more difficult for RISD students to get into the classes they want, said Sofaya Philemon, a junior at RISD, adding that the student population has grown in recent years. "When you can't get into the classes you want at RISD, there's an entire course catalog open to you at Brown," she said.

Philemon said she thinks foreign languages and economics are two of the most popular subjects that attract RISD students to Brown. She is currently taking a French class at Brown and said she thinks her peers should take advantage of University course offerings more frequently.

RISD does not offer language classes, said Adriana Gallo, a sophomore at RISD majoring in illustration, who is taking an advanced Spanish class at Brown this semester. "It's been nice to meet students up at Brown," she said. "We're benefitting from the Brown classes, but we're also contributing as much as we're getting out (of them)," she added.  

RISD students face less "culture shock" taking Brown classes than Brown students who are not used to five-hour studio courses like those offered at RISD, Philemon said.

In contrast to an increase in RISD students taking Brown classes, the number of Brown students enrolled in RISD courses has recently declined, Fitzgerald said. One possible reason for the decrease in Brown students taking RISD courses is the work of the Creative Arts Council in expanding Brown's creative and fine arts course offerings, he said.

But some Brown students still seek the different experience of studying at RISD.

"There's something about taking a class at a school that is an art school and that has such an art focus" that makes studying at RISD "really refreshing," said Stephanie Maldonado '15, who is currently taking "Introduction to Photography for Non-majors" at RISD. She said she would like to take more RISD courses in the future.

With the exception of the rising population of RISD students taking Brown courses, the number of special students in other categories has remained fairly steady or declined over the past decade, according to the report.

The number of special students entering through the Office of Continuing Education - who have historically been local residents - has recently declined, said Jodi Devine, associate director for executive education and adult programs. The number of University employees taking Brown courses has dropped from 43 in 2002 to 22 in 2012, and the number of post-baccalaureates declined from 47 to 10 between those years, according to the OIR report. Employees are exempt from tuition fees for passing courses related to their work on campus, Devine said.

The cost of tuition, in conjunction with Rhode Island's struggling economy, might be an explanation for the decline, she added.


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