Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Late, Late, Late Registration

Sometimes I fantasize about working at a college that doesn’t accept late-registering students. The kind of place students fight to get into, and where if they’re kicked out, there’s another kid outside just itching to take his place.

Alas, not the case. Both my previous school and my current one register(ed) students through the first week of classes. While I understand financial desperation, and the need to make the numbers work, it’s hard not to feel pangs of conscience helping a struggling kid sign up for a full slate of classes when he’s already missed the first meetings of each.

The rule of thumb on the staff at my old school was ‘last in, first out.’ My current school doesn’t share the gallows sense of humor, but I can’t help but wonder if the same rule applies.

Signing up for classes is, and should be, a big deal. It’s not something you can just roll out of bed and do, and expect to succeed.

Aside from the obvious, like stepping up to the educational plate with one strike already called against you, the logistical concerns at this point become overwhelming. The most convenient and popular time slots are already full (with students who actually went to the trouble to sign up on time), leaving only a patchwork of sections that most people wouldn’t want, and certainly wouldn’t want together. For reasons I will NEVER understand, federal financial aid regs require a kid to sign up for 12 credits, so the kid who might have a fighting chance with two or three classes is forced to fail with four. (Even worse – we have some accelerated classes that start in late October, to catch the kids who attended another college for a month and came home. For financial aid purposes, late-starting classes don’t count.)

It gets worse with students who need remedial courses. They’re a part of the cc mission, to be sure, but they’re harder to schedule, since many courses have as a prerequisite the passing of any remedial coursework. (This is true even where you wouldn’t expect. Intro to Chemistry bans students in remedial English, for example. There were ‘incidents’ in labs in the past, and they want to make sure that everybody in the class can understand safety instructions. It makes sense, even if you wouldn’t immediately think of it.) Finding 12 credits of open sections that make sense, that don’t violate prerequisites, and that work with the kid’s job hours can be horribly difficult.

Honestly, though, the parents are the worst. Memo to parents: let the kid register. Or not. If the only way he’s showing up is with you leading him by the nose ring, exactly how many classes do you think he’ll attend when you’re not there? (And when that happens, don’t get mad at me over FERPA rules. I didn’t write ‘em.)

Although we’d take an initial hit, I’d like to try an experiment whereby we close ALL registration three weeks before the start of classes. I’d bet large sums of cash that the attrition rate would drop substantially. Give every kid time to work out his job hours, transportation, etc. And tell the hardcore procrastinators to come back in a few months. Or not.

In the words of John Belushi, but nooooo....

Ditto on the student who emails me at any point in the last 2 weeks to beg their way into my 4th yr seminar by telling me how "totally interested" they are in my class.

If they were so seriously interested, then why didn't they sign up 3 months ago when it was feasible to get in?

And why don't they get it when I explain that we simply don't do manual registration anymore, so "No, I can't just pencil you in over the limit."
I really despise late registration - we've already had two classes and three new people are about to start the class tomorrow. I guess we didn't do anything important those first two days, right?

I've also found the last in/first out sentiment to be true. In the year I've been teaching at a cc, I've never had a student who came in late finish the class (or if they did make it to the end, pass it). The students are often behind to begin with - letting them start a class late doesn't do much for their struggles.

I teach at both a CC and a private University, and I never thought about the difficulties of registration at a CC. Most of those folks work, so they must be difficult to schedule. At the private U., the bigger issue is the whiny kid who "doesn't want anything hard" or "doesn't do 8:30 classes." And when you're registering at the very last registration session, this is tough.

As an instructor, it's also tough for me to schedule certain assignments--I teach a Speech class, but group assignments and "attend a speech" papers are tricky.

And having been an undergraduate only a few years ago, I can't stand it when parents lead their kids by the nose(ring) and tell them when to register and which classes to choose. Some parents argue that since they're the ones paying, they should have some say. I think that at this age, kids need to learn some maturity and responsiblity and need to start taking care of these things themselves.
Ugh. There is nothing worse than registering a student with his/her parent(s) there. I've seen students on the verge of tears, and I've had a parent report me for saying to her--after listening to her bullying of her kid for twenty minutes--"Ma'am, your daughter is the one who has to take the classes, not you."
Ah, there are times I love FERPA. At the CC where I last taught, we weren't allowed to have a prereq for History. The classes were mandatory letter grades, and tend to have a heavy reading load. But enrollment has been so dismal (tuition in the state has risen over 47% in the last 5 years, I think) that an FTE is an FTE. "Let them figure it out after the first 10 days ... then we keep the money." Makes me want to cry.
Thankfully, my school won't add them after the first week, but I always find myself sneering at the ones who turn up on the third day and expect that we've held all things in abeyance pending their arrival. My "no late work" policy has really helped this, but still, they can whine, whine, whine.
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