Wednesday, July 19, 2017
The Cancellation Shuffle
Our latest faculty contract includes a payment (about $250) to any faculty member whose class section is cancelled less than a week before classes start. This seems eminently fair, as those teachers deserve some compensation for the work they did to prepare for the class. On the other hand, I sometimes cancel a section that might 'make it' if I sweated it out one last week, but I don't want to pay the late cancellation fee.
I do think that many students are not cognizant of the machinations we go through in deciding whether or not a class is a 'go'. Sometimes, students put off registering for a class because they know it has low enrollment, and they can therefore put off the moment when they have to pay their tuition. So often, I have a student in my office, outraged over my cancellation of the one class he needed (wanted?) to graduate. When I point out that he never even enrolled in the class, he tells me that he was waiting until the end of Summer to enroll, so he could pay later. So, it might help to encourage students to enroll early (during that first spike), and perhaps even offer incentives for early enrollment.
Everett CC, WA
Some of our smallest courses are taught as overload by full-time tenure-track faculty (I taught a freshman seminar course that way for the past three years, but I won't be able to do it next year, as the main course I'm teaching is growing rapidly (from 30 students in 2015, 45 in 2016, 70 in 2017, to 100 in 2018) and I won't have the time for an extra course. I was very stretched this year handling it with only 70 students in my main course.
Small classes are usually run even if they don't fill up, but the course is changed afterwards to be run less often (alternate years) or indefinitely "suspended".
Three months out the enrollment has to be over 10 or cancelled.
Two months out the enrollment has to be over 20 or cancelled.
One month out the enrollment has to be over 30 or cancelled.
That way students know that they need to enroll early to get what they want.
It may have some perverse incentives - a student gets a friend to enrol in a low enrollment class so it will run knowing the friend is going to swap out at the last minute for a course s/he really wants.
My college doesn't even think about cancelling classes until the fee payment deadline passes. Our students can sign up without any intention of actually taking the class, perhaps as a backstop if they don't transfer, or just forget to pay. That cuts it pretty close to start with.
We used to have the problem of deciding when to create a new section (that could end up filled with last-minute applicants who vanished almost as fast), but now we have those start 3 weeks into the year. (A twelve-week late-start semester.) With that scheme, we tend to have full sections of main-stream courses and disappointed late arrivals who often cannot enroll -- leading to a drop in enrollment.
(The reasoning for the delayed waiting list is to prevent students from using their priority slot to get onto waiting lists and then not be able to register for any courses that they need—the protection offered by this policy is probably less than the harm it does.)
The current (ugly) workaround is for the registrar to manually close classes when they fill up, so that no one can register even if slots open up, then re-open the registration once the waiting lists get turned on.