Class schedule springs obstacles on students

Class schedule springs obstacles on students

Graphic by Elise Bechtel

By Destiny Caster, Emily Chang, and Sergio Mercado

This is a currently unfolding story. Please return to this page as updates are provided

It is that time of the semester, again, when students are eagerly waiting with CI Records open and their shopping cart full, hoping to enroll in their classes for next semester before all spots are filled. While the task of enrolling has always been a bit of an uphill battle, maybe you have noticed this time around that the catalogue for your major is shorter or that there are not as many sections offered.  

Provost Mitch Avila explained, “We set enrollment targets and then using the Student Faculty Ratio, we assign buckets of resources to our colleges that in turn use those resources to assign to departments.” 

CI’s student faculty ratio has dropped from 19.0 in 2021 to 17.0 due to a drop in enrollment: a nationwide pattern set off by the effects of the pandemic. Avila also described how student numbers and classes change directly with each other, but not at the same rate. He reframed the situation: “So it’s not a departure from anything we’ve ever done in the past. It’s simply a little bit more …  visible now because we had a fairly sharp drop off in enrollment.”

Figure from Tenure Density and Student-Faculty Ratio Trends report provided by the provost.

Vice Provost Jessica Lavariega Monforti commented that “the Provost has been in communication with deans to ensure that students will be able to take the courses they need for timely graduation.” Avila clarified, “It’s really at the level of the dean working with the chair to ensure that the departments have the resources they need,” since chairs know what requirements and sequence of classes needs to be offered for their respective departments. 

Reasoning aside, students have noticed a sharp decrease in the variety of classes being offered across majors, a decline in the number of class sections offered and reduced flexibility in schedule planning.  

Alexis Chua, a senior biology major, was unable to find a schedule that fulfilled all the remaining requirements for her final semester. In completing her requirement for organic chemistry two, she said, “the options they gave me were like ‘you either stay here an extra semester or take it at a community college so you can graduate on time.’”  

Chua had to decide to take organic chemistry at a community college in spring, but this brings up its own problems. The community college she has to take organic chemistry at does not offer a 4-unit organic chemistry 2 course. Instead, she will be taking a 5-unit organic chemistry that covers topics that CI teaches in organic chemistry one and two separately, thus spending time relearning material she already learned at CI and spending less time covering the material she would have learned in organic chemistry at CI.  

Students are frustrated – some are wondering if they will be able to find the classes they need to graduate, and those who can find the classes they need may not be able to take the courses they want to take.  

“I literally just tailored it around physics because everything was. Every class from each major was like just interfering with each other,” Giovanni Rebolledo, a fourth-year biology student said. “Physics was the only specific class required, but other than physics the classes that I’m taking are like not really what I want.”  

A less obvious effect of the spring 2023 offerings is the inability of tutors to cover courses. Alyssa Galarza, a fourth-year biology major and tutor with the Learning Resource Center will be unable to be an embedded tutor in spring 2023. “I can’t alternate my schedule at all because there’s only one class that’s offered. So I’m unable to tutor for any embedded course,” she said.  

Less schedule flexibility means she has been unable to find a course to serve as an embedded peer tutor. “I can only show up certain times, like certain lectures. I can’t go to all lectures and be more influential and build a bond for them to show up.” 

Students are not the only ones having trouble with the new schedule. At the Oct. 25 academic senate meeting, many faculty members raised questions and concerns regarding how the course offerings would affect student success and faculty alike. Worries about student retention and barriers to accessing classes were raised, as well as how lecturers and the students they serve would be negatively impacted. The current spring 2023 schedule on CI’s website lists 399 instructors leading classes, while fall 2022 lists 441. 

However, student schedules are not completely out of their hands and at the mercy of the unit decrease. The potential to add more sections of classes based on demand stands, so be sure to join the waitlist of classes you need, even if they are full. Avila concurred, “If there was demand, let’s say in a couple of weeks, we look at this, at the enrollment, and … all of our classes are full, we’ll add more.”  

Avila said, “As a state agency, we have to be fiscally prudent.” The Dean of Martin V. Smith School of Business and Economics, Dr. Susan Andrzejewski, encourages students to connect with the Academic Advising Office, Faculty Advisors and the program chair to identify the courses needed to graduate. Students should also talk to their professors and chairs regarding issues in scheduling and courses.   

Whether or not the decrease in units will continue beyond next semester cannot be concluded until the fall 2023 catalogue is released at the end of next semester. Regarding enrollment, Avila said, “I’m actually fairly optimistic about where we’ll be in a couple of years. I think we’re in a bit of a rough spot, but it’s a rough spot throughout the entire state.” 

This is a currently unfolding story. Please return to this page as updates are provided. 

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