Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

College switches back to 18-credit pre-reigstration cap

After observing the effects of a 16-unit pre-registration cap on students last semester, the Registrar’s Office has reverted to an 18-unit plus activity credits cap for pre-registration for this spring. Both ASWC and the Registrar believe that this will benefit students.

The change to a 16-unit cap for pre-registration was implemented for the fall of 2010. Stacey Giusti, associate registrar, said that President George Bridges formed a group to look specifically at registration changes and how to help make the registration system run more smoothly.

“We ultimately wanted to decrease the number of students dropping classes during final registration,” she said.

She said that the change was somewhat experimental.

“We weren’t sure what was going to happen in terms of course availability. We had to find out what the schedule could handle.”

Senior John Loranger, vice president of ASWC and chair of the Student Affairs Committee, believes that this movement during the add-drop period was the biggest cause in the original change to a 16-unit cap.

“By only allowing students to register for 16 units, the Registrar was trying to prevent so much movement. They hoped that this cap would force students to register only for the classes they really wanted.”

However, the good intentions behind the switch to the 16-credit cap were not enough to prevent a few problems.

Giusti explained that a few groups on campus were hit hard by the switch.

“It quickly became obvious that this cap inadvertently made things difficult for students who wanted to take music and SSRA credits,” she said.

Susan Pickett, the Catharine Gould Chism professor of music, wrote a document explaining the consequences of the shift within the music department.

One important issue was benefits of non-tenure-track faculty in the music department. These faculty members only receive benefits if teaching 30 or more credits of applied music lessons. With a 16-unit cap, students often did not apply for music lessons until after the academic year started. This was problematic for these faculty members who started the year unsure of whether or not they would have benefits.

A second problem came into play for ensemble directors. Because the 16-unit cap applied to activity credits as well as academic credits, students often did not pre-register for activity credits, like music ensembles, and ensemble directors did not know how many students to prepare for.

Pickett made the comparison of preparing for academic courses.

“Imagine not being able to choose your reading list or make your syllabus until after the semester begins,” she said.

The third issue had to do with scholarship timing. Some students receive scholarships in order to take lessons with the college, and these scholarships have paperwork and deadlines to be made. When students are not registered for lessons until after the academic year begins, Betty Waggoner, administrative assistant for the hall of music, had difficulty making these deadlines.

These “unintended consequences,” to use Pickett’s phrase, were quite influential in the decision to switch back to an 18-credit cap with space for activity credits.

Loranger said ASWC is happy to see the change after predicting that there would be problems–a prediction that was validated by students’ concerns in survey responses about the switch to a 3-2 schedule and a 16-credit cap.

“We anticipated last year that there would be problems with a 16-credit cap, and we’re thrilled to see the change back to the 18-credit cap,” he said.

Loranger believes that keeping classes open to first-year students is important, but he doesn’t think a cap is the best way to accomplish this.

“Instead, we need to get the word out to all students that it is important to talk to professors before registering in order to find out whether students really want the classes they’re registering for.”

He explained that the Registrar and ASWC were definitely in agreement about switching back for Spring 2011.

“We didn’t have to push them. They realized the 16-credit cap wasn’t working.”

Giusti explained that she isn’t worried about enrollment pressure being an issue during the spring semester pre-registration.

“We can use this fall’s numbers to predict what the schedule can support,” she said. “We’re happy and excited to go back to an 18-credit cap in the spring.”

Pre-registration for the Spring 2011 semester begins on Friday, Nov. 5.

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