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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA struggles

    Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series examining class availability and registration issues. Look for part 2 in tomorrow’s edition of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

    As students begin registering for next semester’s courses, university administrators and college heads said the UA is still struggling to meet student demand.

    But administrators said they have temporarily resolved any major course availability issues for the spring semester.

    Having the right classes with the right number of seats is one of the biggest challenges administrators face, said Jerry Hogle, vice provost of instruction.

    Class availability depends on colleges being able to predict where students will go and which classes they will register for. It’s a difficult guessing game that only resolves soon before a new semester starts, Hogle said.

    Once a department knows how much money it needs for certain classes, the college it belongs to can ask the provost’s office for the appropriate university funds.

    It’s a basic plan that is designed to make money follow the students, Hogle said.

    But the Arizona Legislature has a fixed

    There’s always some flexibility, you have to get people into their classes.

    – Robert Shelton,
    UA president

    amount of money for education that must be divided among all the state’s public school systems and universities.

    President Robert Shelton said the UA doesn’t get all of the money it requests from the state, and that shortfall is passed on to individual colleges and departments.

    Gail Burd, associate dean of the College of Science, said her college has an extremely tight budget, but the various science departments still manage to make it work.

    “”We just barely squeak by,”” Burd said.

    Shelton said he must rely on “”clever”” department heads to shuffle around their schedules and courses so they can use every dollar to effectively serve the most students.

    This semester, tier-one general education classes were designed so that every section is filled almost exactly to capacity, with a total of 60 extra seats on the first day of class, Hogle said.

    “”That’s just about hitting the bullseye,”” Hogle said.

    Budget cuts strain colleges, departments

    Over the summer, Shelton made a $10.6 million budget cut from “”temporary funds”” provided by the state, allocating the money to permanent funds.

    Shelton said he did his best to “”protect instructions,”” and took the least from teaching budgets, but he could not avoid such cuts altogether.

    Shelton said his new budget left the College of Science with $100,000 less than it had requested from the temporary instructional funds.

    However, Burd said the funds that were cut from her college are proving to be necessary.

    The College of Science will probably have the money reinstated for spring, but there could be big consequences for certain students if that does not happen, Burd said.

    If the money doesn’t come through for some reason, Burd said she might be forced to cancel a few classes entirely.

    “”I really don’t want to think about it,”” Burd said.

    The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences got all of the money it requested, Shelton said.

    William Dixon, chair of the political science department in the college, said his department will be using some of the money to hire a new professor and ease the strain on the department.

    The political science department serves about 1,000 student majors with fewer than 19 professors.

    David Ortiz, a history professor, said his department is not in any better shape.

    “”We’re doing what we do with half the faculty we need,”” Ortiz said.

    The size of the matter

    With so few professors, Dixon said he sometimes grudgingly makes lower-division classes larger to accommodate more students.

    Dixon said larger classes are a disservice to students because it isn’t possible to have students do as much writing.

    Ortiz said he can “”barely stretch”” to give students the attention they need in a class of 45. In a class of 80, it would be impossible without a teaching assistant, Ortiz added.

    Shelton said the issue was one of practicality: with a given budget and a given number of students, departments’ only options are to add more class sections or to make existing sections larger.

    Still, Shelton said he wants the student experience to remain at the highest level possible.

    “”Size without quality is hollow,”” Shelton said.

    Samantha Pyle-Struzinski, an undeclared sophomore, said she does not mind larger class sizes as long as the professor knows how to deal with the large class. Discussion sections also help a lot, Pyle-Struzinski added.

    Net solutions

    In addition to increased class sizes, Dixon said changes in WebReg technology have made it easier to get political science majors into the classes they need.

    Ben Dickenson, a support systems analyst at the Center for Computing and Information Technology, which controls WebReg, said the permission system is entering its fourth semester of use.

    The new system has been implemented without any major problems, and Dickenson said he has heard only positive reaction to the system.

    The permission system gives departments more power to control who can sign up for which classes online, thus freeing up advisers who had previously been manually signing students into classesand giving students more flexibility in their class decisions.

    Dixon said new guidelines on WebReg do not allow majors in his department to take political science classes beyond those that are required for the degree.

    The policy makes sure that everyone who needs classes to graduate has access to them, Dixon said, though he said it was unfortunate that he needed to freeze students out of taking elective classes.

    Nick Morin, a political science senior, said he is not going to have any problems graduating on time, but he wishes the policy did not bar him from taking other classes in his major as electives.

    “”I understand it, but I don’t like it,”” Morin said.

    The intellectual curiosity factor

    However, while administrators are addressing the class availability problem for majors, students who want to exercise their intellectual curiosity by taking courses outside their majors still have difficulty landing seats.

    Dixon said his department, like many others, is unable to offer many spots to nonmajors or nonminors because classes are already so filled with students who are required to take them.

    John W. Olsen, head of the anthropology department, said it would be great to be able to offer more classes to students outside his department.

    “”I can’t think of a more wonderful thing, and I think that this is something that tier-one general education should provide, but could also then be extended through someone’s undergraduate career,”” Olsen said.

    Olsen said the UA does a better job of offering interdisciplinary studies than other universities he’s seen.

    Shelton said he felt the same way, but he said that a department’s highest commitment should be to its majors and minors.

    “”There’s always some flexibility,”” Shelton said. “”You have to get people into their classes.””

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