Thursday, February 05, 2004

First week of classes and petitioners

My first week of classes is over. My lectures and labs all went well, with no technical problems to speak of. The students seem genuinely excited about the PRS system; I've already received many positive comments on the system even though none of the students have used it. Tomorrow I'll be installing the receivers in the lecture hall, and after that I can start trying the system in class.

I mentioned earlier in the week that we were likely to have lots of petitioners (students attempting to register for a class after it's already been filled or started), and I was unfortunately correct. Every math and science instructor I talked with had many petitioners. The enrollment cap for my biology lecture was 170, and I had 7 open spots on the first day. More than 25 petitioners showed up. We had some no-shows, and I hate turning away students since my course is a requirement for many programs, so I took all the petitioners. My lecture now has more than 180 students.

Lab was little different. The room has 28 chairs, and all but one of my four lab sections were completely full weeks before the semester began. I had more than 15 petitioners show up to those three lab sections total, and while I was able to take them all I now have 30-32 students in each of those 3 lab sections. That number is likely to drop due to lab switches and early drops, but it's still too many. We're even offering one more lab section than normal this semester (the extra section is funded by district reserves; state funding has not increased as far as I know).

And, from what I've heard, I've had it easy with petitioners. One anatomy instructor I talked to described her first day in lab: 32 chairs in the room, 35 students officially enrolled on the first day of class, and more than 40 petitioners lining the walls hoping to get in. Another microbiology instructor had more than 10 petitioners show up in a lab that was again over-filled to begin with. Chemistry classes have apparently been extraordinarily difficult to get into; I've heard multiple students lamenting the situation.

Even though I try to take as many petitioners as I can, the problem as I see it is that a number of students who need to take the class probably don't even try to petition once they see the class is closed. To petition the student must come to class on the first day and often spend the entire period waiting for a lottery to be held at the end to select who gets to enter the class. Thus, who knows how many students we've turned away due to our limited number of sections?

In the current economic climate with higher unemployment and people presumably wanting to "retrain," it would seem logical that community colleges should be opening their arms to all students who come (it is our mission, after all, especially with state universities limiting enrollment severely). However, at my campus we simply don't have the funds to offer the classes. I believe the state determines our funding level based (roughly) on the number of students we had in the past year, and caps our possible growth from year to year. Thus, even though new students would be paying some tuition (which goes to the state first, not us, btw), we don't have the money to pay the instructors to open up new sections to attract new students. It seems counter-intuitive, but right now most of our classes are full (and many are over-enrolled), and yet we're having a hard time paying for the instructors we currently have, not to mention trying to pay for more instructors. Just last year we laid off more than a third of our adjunct instructors due to budget problems.

1 comment:

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

Well, it's nice to know that I'm not alone (misery ... company ... oh, who am I fooling? Every school has these problems, so I was never alone.)

From 48 to 75, that's a big jump. I feel for ya. At least I don't have a research program to keep running ... though I will be running through a lot more red pens this semester.
February 7, 2004, 1:42:59 AM PST – Like – Reply

PZ Myers
Here at a state university, we're having the same problems: business is just booming, more and more students demanding to get into the biology program, while staff and funding are getting cut by the pinheads who control the state budget.

I thought I was suffering with a class of 75, which isn't quite as bad as 170. Of course, our enrollment cap was supposed to be 48...
February 6, 2004, 12:33:42 PM PST