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Cuts, Closes, and Balances, Continued (#1144)

Topics/tags: Registration

A few days ago, I reflected on the broad changes wrought by the Fall 2021 Cut, Close, and Balance period. I ended the musing by noting that I had to check on my advisees, including the two who had already written to me.

In addition to the five students graduating this term, who should not need courses, I have twenty-four returning advisees [1]. I’m not completely sure of their distribution because of the effects of leaves, but I think I have ten in the class of 2022, five in the class of 2023, and nine in the class of 2024 [2]. One in the class of 2022 is taking a semester off to pursue an internship. Of the nine Tutorial students, four were cut from a course. Of the five in the class of 2023, four were cut from one or two courses. Of the nine registering the class of 2022, only two were cut from a course. Ten out of twenty-three were cut; about 45%. I wonder if that’s normal.

I also wonder if it’s normal that those in the class of 2023 suffer the brunt of cuts. Two of the four were CS majors hoping to take two CS courses in the Fall who were cut to one course. Handling over-enrollments in CSC-324 and CSC-341 was a bear. And we did prioritize seniors over third-years [3]. The other two were cut from severely over-enrolled courses: Intro Studio and History of Education. Oh, that’s right, one was cut from two courses, CS and Peace and Conflict Studies. It’s awful to be cut from two courses [4].

What else were my advisees cut from? Two were cut from Peace and Conflict Studies, a rising second-year student and a rising third-year. I wonder who gets prioritized for that course. Or maybe it’s random. I’m not sure what one got cut from; we’d talked about so many courses that it’s hard to remember. Of course, that one has already found another course. One got cut from The Craft of Fiction. I keep wondering why we don’t offer more sections of that course. A few got cut from Studio Art courses. A few managed to stay in their Studio Art courses. One got cut from _History of Ancient Greece_A few got cut from CSC-324 (I think). One may have been cut from CSC-341.

In any case, it looks like most of the cuts happened in the over-enrolled courses. I don’t recall giving the normal warnings about those classes. And I certainly didn’t expect the level of cuts we had to do in CS.

Cuts are painful. But are they more painful than being prevented from registering for a course in the first place? I’m not sure. As I’ve said before, although I agree that our registration system is complicated, I haven’t heard suggestions for a better one [5]. However, I do wonder whether we could be more of a data-driven institution, as President Kington suggested when he started. For example, if we required students to fill out four-year plans in Self Service, rather than on paper, we could learn more about predicted demand. Student choices change [6], but having a general sense of what they plan might help.

Oh well, I’m fortunate to have a new motto. It’s not my responsibility.

[1] I’ve been told that the College average is twelve, which seems to make sense given our 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and the approximately 1/3 of Grinnellians who double major.

[2] Tutorials normally have twelve students. This year, Tutorial numbers were often down. Two of my Tutorial students decided to take a gap year and one decided to transfer.

[3] Should third-years be hyphenated? Grammarly says so, but I don’t know a good rule for it. Third-year students should be, but that’s not at issue here.

[4] Of course, I’m pretty sure that we cut some students from two courses, such as non-majors trying to enroll in two upper-level courses.

[5] Neither priority by class year nor first-come, first-served is better. A bidding system might be, at least if we could be sure that all students knew how to manipulate the system. But that’s doubtful. Maybe a round-based priority by class year system. (E.g., all seniors pick one course, then all third-year students, then all second-years, then all first-years, then we loop back to the seniors again.) But that sounds painful to manage.

[6] Unsurprisingly.

Version 1.0 of 2021-05-13.