Students registering frustration with lack of course availability

Kiley Snow, a junior biochemistry major. Photo by Mari Lundin

Registration can be a frustrating process for students who need to get into required classes.

During registration, students encounter an array of issues getting into classes they need to take in order to graduate on time. Some students struggle getting into courses that are only offered in the spring or fall, an inadequate number of sections available, student’s unmet or unknown requirements, and late student registration dates.

Junior Kiley Snow, biochemistry and molecular biology major, was assigned a sophomore registration date because her Spanish pass/no pass course was not counted towards her registration credits.

“It doesn’t make sense that I’ve taken and passed just as many credits as the next junior but I have to register two days later because I took a pass/no pass class,” Snow said.

Snow emailed her academic advisor after receiving her registration date. The academic advisor told her she was assigned the sophomore registration date because she hadn’t taken enough credits. Snow ended up realizing the pass/no pass course didn’t attribute to her registration standing.

The academic advisor didn’t respond to an email request for comment.

Snow didn’t get into two of courses she needed, biochemistry and nutrition 200, to stay on track to graduate in the spring of  2020. She needed to take the classes this year or she wouldn’t have her prerequisites fulfilled for her senior year classes, which would push her graduation date back from spring 2020 to fall 2020.

“It’s frustrating when I need to take these classes this semester to stay on track,” Snow said. “If I don’t get in then it throws my whole schedule off and I don’t graduate on time.”

Snow emailed Dr. L. Andrew Lyon, the head of Schmid College of Science and Technology, who opened the sections on MyChapman to allow Snow and other students to enroll to accommodate for the demand. 

The department chair of each department is responsible for opening up more sections for courses offered in their area, according to Ken Murphy, the Associate Provost for Academic Administration.

“There are more problems with seats in classes at Chapman than there should be,” Murphy said. “I’m sensitive to this topic and I actively send department chairs emails to say please open sections, consider the plight of the students,” he added.

Murphy’s happy to meet with students to hear them out and can go to departments in confidentiality provide feedback to try and resolve issues, he said.

“One of the most frustrating things, from my perspective, is that we don’t have a good grip on forecasting how many seats we need,” Murphy said.

Administration does their best to use the information they have but there are still issues, he said. He accredited these issues to three main areas: an abundance of class options for students who take classes all over the place, a system that needs tightening, and growth.

The undergraduate population has risen from 6,005 students in fall 2013 to 7,020 in fall 2017 when the biggest incoming class in Chapman’s history was admitted. Despite the growing student body, class sizes remain mostly small and the student to faculty ratio sits at 14:1, according to Chapman’s facts and rankings.

Most undergraduate classes range from 10-29 students, the average number of students per class 23, according to Chapman’s website. This count exempts “irregular” courses such as internships, independent study, and thesis courses that are much smaller in size.

Although the exact number of courses added over the past four years is unknown, it has most likely increased; class size, however, has remained the same, according to Murphy. He also acknowledged that there’s been an increase in large classes, those with 40 or more students.

Alexis Blumenthal, a junior graphic design major, was the first person on the waitlist for her required business analytics class last year but was denied a spot after the professor signed around ten other student’s registration forms that allowed them into the class, despite the class max capacity and their waitlist position. When she went to turn her signed slip into the Office of Registrar

“I thought I’d for sure get into the class since I was the first one on the waitlist,” Blumenthal said. “It was annoying to try and find another analytics class that fit with my schedule.”

Other problems that arise from waitlists include requisites that aren’t met, instructor or department approval is needed, registration holds, enrollment dates are not open yet, waitlist capacity has been reached, and students have the maximum number of credits already in their cart, according to Chapman’s waitlist FAQ’s.

Murphy acknowledged other issues such as reserved seats, incompatible majors, late registration dates, and minimum credits not reached.

“That’s very frustrating and part of it is our system and believe me, if I could change that I would,” he said.

The waitlist process was altered this year by a task force Murphy served on which was made up of the admissions office, provosts office, registrar, and academic advising. They put restrictions on first year students, limiting the maximum number of credits to 16 rather than 18 so they couldn’t hold spots for six courses and changed the weight list processor to process students at the end of registration rather than every weeknight.

Other key areas they addressed were opening sections during the registration period instead of all of them before, attempted to make sure there were enough seats in key classes and tried working with technology to alter the system which wasn’t successful, according to Murphy.

Another challenge students face while registering is working with classes that are offered only fall or spring semester.

Erika Ebe, a health science major, had to plan her four-year schedule out semesters in advance to assure she’d meet all of her requirements by graduation.

“There are a lot of classes I have to take that I can only take a certain semester,” she said. “I planned my schedule out for the next five semesters at the beginning of my sophomore year, but I still have trouble getting into some of those classes I planned.”

Senior standing students who don’t or can’t take a required course that’s only offered in the Spring, for example, have to wait until the following Spring to take it, threatening to push back their graduation date by an entire year.

A student in that situation would be sent directly to the department with the directive to solve the problem, Murphy said. It’s a good statistic for Chapman and parents when students graduate in four years and clearing out space for somebody who needs to graduate is important so they don’t stay an extra year, he explained.

For elective classes that aren’t part of major requirements, professors must have a minimum of ten students enlisted at the beginning of the semester to keep the course. When classes get canceled due to lack of enrollment, students have to wait another semester to take the course, which can lead to graduating late.

“I’m not a kind of guy who wants to be strict about this, I want people to take what they want to take and do what they want to do,” Murphy said. “But we should probably be a little more strict about that and try to get some of those faculty turned to these sections where there’s not enough classes.”

However, acceptions are made for small classes that students are required to take, according to Murphy.

Mari Lundin

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