Once freshmen hit college campuses, they relish in their freedom. Three square meals becomes one large bowl of Ramen noodles and a grape soda. Eventually, eating Burger King and McDonalds starts to show around one’s belly, and the dreading freshmen fifteen becomes the freshmen thirty.

One school in South Carolina is taking their student’s health seriously though by requiring them to pass fitness 101, better known as COBRAFIT.

According to InsideHigherEd.com, at Coker College, all freshmen this year will take a mandatory “fitness assessment,” in which they will – among other things – receive their body mass index (BMI) score, which measures body fat; do a one-mile run/walk; and see how many push-ups and sit-ups they can do in a few minutes.

Coker College is implementing this policy in response to South Carolina’s obesity rate. A recent report named the former capital of the Confederacy, one of the fattest states in America — over 65% of South Carolina’s population is either obese or overweight.

Coker President Robert L. Wyatt and his staff are serious about preparing their student’s for life in 21st century. Wyatt, who lost over 100 pounds since leaving college, told Inside he wants students to know “the importance of wellness but the tools and techniques that will help them to achieve this state of wellness.”

Hopefully Wyatt is careful: Americans don’t like to hear suggestions about their food, religion, or guns, unless they make the first step towards opening their minds. Coker will provide new, healthier food options for their students, which will include nutritional content for items.  Hopefully, this will work because it’s a slippery slope when administrators try to change their student’s diet, even if they have the best intentions in mind.

Luckily, Coker College is taking it slow, making sure they don’t put any of their students in precarious situations when it comes to fitness and nutrition. According to Inside’s report, Coker almost crossed the fine line between shaming and helping:

At one point officials considered installing scales in the dorms or setting up weigh stations elsewhere on campus, but, with eating disorders becoming an ever-increasing health issue among students, they nixed that idea.

Some critics might feel that taking physical fitness assessments are unfair, especially if the test prohibits students from progressing academically.

Inside reports that Lincoln University, a historically black institution in Pennsylvania, came under fire for its requirement that students either have a BMI score under 30 or take a one-semester “Fitness for Life” class that, like the course at Coker, mixed exercise, nutritional instruction and education on the health risks of obesity. But the university modified the requirement following the considerable outcry at widespread news that it threatened 25 students’ graduation eligibility.

FrugiVoice: Do you think more colleges should implement fitness requirements for their students? Is this fair? Should colleges require students to pass a fitness test to graduate?

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  1. College culture (late night studying, drinking irresponsibly, etc.) doesn’t support a healthy lifestyle, so I’m not sure this will be an effective supplement.

    I hated P.E. classes growing up b/c they don’t take into account that different people like different things (I like weightlifting and dancing) also b/c I have health issues and felt like some activities were about competition.

  2. I think that’s rather humiliating. As a student you pay tens of thousands of dollars to learn, imagine passing your classes and also having to worry about being “fit” enough to graduate? I think it would just add to the anxieties of college students especially women who already feel like they can’t accomplish anything in life without being fit and attractive.

  3. I agree with this a 100%. I was just speaking with my little brother about this, encouraging him to eat healthier especially since he is an athlete. I think it should mandatory for not only freshmens but also college athletes who I find have the worst eating habits (well my brother does anyway).

  4. This is as absurd as requiring students to pass gym class in junior and high schools. I like that they have put healthy eating into the caf but I would feel so nervous if I had to do pushups to graduate.:(

  5. When I was in undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill, there used to be a requirement that you pass a swimming test in order to graduate. Certain students got to opt out (certified lifeguards, the disabled) but if you didn’t know how to swim you could use one of your two fitness class requirements to take swim lessons. I took weight training and volleyball. While I don’t think it should be REQUIRED that students pass a fitness test to graduate, I will say that it’s not a terrible idea. Even the least athletic kids could find something to do to cover their two fitness requirements at UNC and even though we made a big stink about taking the swim test, I think a lot of people are better for it. A lot of folks are even lamenting the fact that they did away with the swim test requirement only a couple of years ago. Maybe because UNC is such an athletic school – many incoming freshman played sports of some kind and the school turns a spotlight on its student-athletics program – we just took it in stride. Requiring fitness tests to graduate might not be totally in line with getting a well-rounded education but I feel like it was good for me.

  6. as a big gal i mus say, these practices can get flushed down the toilet along with the urine and feces. i’ve been involved in the fat acceptance movement for a minute so these discriminatory practices do not surprise me. i think fat prejudice should be combated just as racism and sexism. aint it crazy how a group of people can be singled out and be ridiculed and subjugated just because of their size?


    • @Shug Avery: No because weight is not anything like gender or ethnicity, gender and ethnicity cannot be controlled, while weight can. I am sure that you will argue that it is hereditary and while there is a genetic component there are also personal choices, obesity is not rising dramatically because of genetic reasons. While the BMI is far from the best way to measure health, it is a strong indicator, higher BMI, lower health. Now being overweight is not a reason to judge someone, it can be a reason to offer them help to become healthy (not necessarily thin) I am not sure what level Coker is using for BMI, but the other college mentioned used a level of 30 which is obese. We are not talking about someone who is a little overweight-this is weight that will cause health problems, and it would be ridiculous to not help these students.

      • @Dave: I agree with much of what you said, but its ridiculous that people who don’t care for their own health somehow become so concerned about someone’s health because of their physical appearance. Their is no way for me to be able to determine someone’s fitness level based BMI or how they look.

        I also know that there are debates within the FAM about what it means to work out and lose weight…

      • @Dave:
        100% agree with you. “Fat prejudice” isn’t comparable to racism or sexism and it annoys me to no end when people make that comparison. You do not have control over the gender or race/ ethnicity, you are born into those things however you can control your weight. While genetics may have an effect on weight, at some point in life you have to make active choices to leading a healthy lifestyle. This doesn’t go to say that you have to be “skinny” to be “fit/ in shape” but I’m more apt to believe there are more skinny people who are healthy and fit than are fat people.

  7. Mary Marshall Fowler

    Some people with disabilities would probably not be able to pass the fitness tests. Perhaps people who are over weight could participate in a program. they may or may not be able to lose weight.

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