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....