This Valentine’s Day, while students flock to the theater to see “Fifty Shades Darker” or spend a romantic evening strolling through Westwood with their significant others, many freshmen will be bent over their laptops, frantically trying to enroll in whatever classes they can get.
This issue of late pass times and over-enrollment is nothing new for UCLA students, but it has reached its pinnacle as UCLA accommodates its largest freshman class yet.
With the current enrollment system, first- and second-year students have the lowest priority, making it hard to get into courses required for their majors and virtually impossible to take popular courses that may catch their interest. UCLA needs to address this issue by sending an enrollment survey and allowing enrollment time petitions.
UCLA Registrar assigns pass times based on class standing and completed units. “Priority status students” such as student athletes and Regents scholars can get earlier enrollment times. The university randomizes pass times in the interest of “fairness.” However, this does nothing to help first- and second-years with getting the classes they need.
It’s not just the interesting general education courses that fill up either, it’s the core classes that students need for their majors. First- and second-years who cannot get their core classes must push them back to subsequent quarters, putting them behind in trying to meet degree requirements.
And while enrollment times are randomized for the purpose of being “fair,” a university this large cannot leave its academia up to chance. Some students have the unfortunate experience of multiple late enrollment times, while others consistently have earlier times.
With the random policy, there is nothing to control the frequency of late pass times for individuals. Enrollment petitions and surveys can help lessen the burden of late pass times and allow something more than chance to be the deciding factor in underclassmen’s academic careers.
Several Chemistry 14A students faced problems because of this system when they tried to enroll in Chemistry 14B this quarter. Five lectures were bottlenecked to three, leaving many students unable to continue with the second course in the series. Many who did get into one of the lectures experienced time conflicts, resulting in an 11 a.m. lecture with students sitting in the aisles and a virtually empty 3 p.m. lecture.
And then there are those students who want to take classes out of interest, potentially determining their choice of major or career path, but cannot get a spot.
“I really wanted to take this political science class, but I couldn’t get in,” said Aneesh Gowri, a first-year psychobiology student. “I’m not a political science major or anything – I just thought it sounded interesting.” Gowri said he’ll try to enroll again next quarter, but students shouldn’t have to push classes back like this.
Hedy Wang, a first-year pre-business economics student, is also concerned about getting the classes she needs for next quarter. “My first pass is at 9:30 p.m. and my second pass is at 8 p.m. I also currently have sophomore standing, but they stopped taking that into consideration,” she said.
Wang worries that she will not get the economics and communications classes she needs to get into the business economics major because of the high demand for them. She needs to take at least three classes next quarter to qualify for financial aid but she doesn’t want them to be three general education courses.
The university has implemented “impacted courses” to deter students who are not serious about a high-need course from enrolling. However, the Chemistry 14B case shows that this is not working well enough.
To address this problem, UCLA can send out a survey in which students indicate which classes they would be most interested in taking the following quarter. This would show the volume of students interested in particular courses and allow Registrar to assign the number of lectures accordingly.
For more urgent cases, students should have the option of petitioning for an earlier pass time. This would be more beneficial than a petition to enroll, as many professors do not distribute petitions to enroll. As of right now, the only people with priority enrollment are student athletes, Regents scholars and students with disabilities, but this does not take into consideration other students with pressing circumstances that require they take a course at a certain time. Having a petition process would help students in difficult positions have at least some possibility of getting into the classes they need.
To an extent, upperclassmen should have priority over lowerclassmen – the pressure to get into certain classes increases as graduation looms nearer. However, lowerclassmen should at least have a chance at getting classes they need or want to take.
And contrary to what some may think, this problem is not irremediable. Of course, it will naturally require more work on the administration’s part. However, UCLA’s priority should be maintaining the world-class education they claim to offer, which cannot be done until the university actually lets students step foot into the classrooms. Their graduation could be at stake.