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Facebook buy and sell groups cannot cover for class overenrollment issues

(Nghi Nguyen/Daily Bruin)

By Leslie Landis

Jan. 20, 2020 10:02 p.m.

If you thought buying a spot in college was the only monetary transaction happening in the University of California system, you thought wrong.

Most students at UCLA have experienced not getting into the classes they want. But for students who don’t get into classes they absolutely need, they may turn to alternative ways to get those spots.

And Facebook has provided those alternatives. UCLA class pages are regularly swarmed with posts from students offering a sum of money in exchange for a spot in a full class. The amount offered can vary from $15 to $300.

This is often the case for severely impacted classes, in which students are fighting for a select few spots required for their respective major. Without these class requirements fulfilled by a certain time, students are left without many options outside dropping the major entirely.

The current enrollment system at UCLA poses two problems: the imbalanced ratio between number of students who need a class and amount of spots available per quarter, and the inequality in financial means to obtain a spot in a non-sanctioned manner.

So despite already paying thousands of dollars in tuition, some students resort to paying out of pocket for the classes they need to graduate. This puts others at a disadvantage; those who are able to shell out extra cash can bypass a broken enrollment system, while students who can’t pay are left empty-handed. UCLA must address these two issues by fixing enrollment so that it reflects the popularity of certain classes, starting with adding more spots in those classes and opening more sections to reflect the demand.

Students shouldn’t have to risk their spot at UCLA to further their education.

According to an email statement from UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez, acquiring courses in a non-sanctioned way, such as on Facebook, is a violation of the Student Conduct Code and may result in a student being referred to the Student Conduct Office for review if they are caught engaging in this activity.

Despite the risks, many students do exactly that.

A second-year psychology student who wished to remain anonymous posted on Facebook last quarter, trying to get into Statistics 13 and Chemistry 14BL – both of which are popular classes for her major and many other STEM majors. She said that despite knowing the risks of posting on Facebook, she had to do so because UCLA left her no other option.

“I’m graduating early and UCLA should be more accommodating to that,” she said. “I’ve talked to professors that said that if I don’t get into a class I can always just take it next year, but I don’t have room in my schedule.”

She also mentioned UCLA should fix the enrollment system so it treats students equally, because buying spots on Facebook gives wealthier students an advantage.

“Not everyone had the opportunity to buy a spot and some may be incentivized to purchase a spot,” she said.

This speaks to another layer in the issue – while wealthy students can buy their way into classes, financially insecure students may feel the need to give up their spot in a class for a certain price.

UCLA has been struggling with overenrollment and housing insecurity in recent years. So as class positions become more competitive and student finances become increasingly unstable, enrollment tends to create a perfect storm of black market dealings.

And without room for error under a fast-paced quarter system, students have few options other than to buy their seat in class.

Filing for a petition is the last resort for students who wish to follow UCLA guidelines. Students must fill out the online form and gain the signature approvals of their respective departments, though there is no guarantee the petition will go through.

Iris Firstenberg, an adjunct psychology professor who has taught Psychology 100B for over thirty years, said in an email statement that the number of students who want to take the class every year has grown tremendously.

“We now enroll 420 students each quarter in 100B, up from 300 per quarter only a few years ago,” Firstenberg said.

Because of classes like 100B, which are required for three different majors, Firstenberg said the entire psychology department has held numerous meetings to figure out how to enroll more students while maintaining a quality educational experience.

In other words, departments are forced to have extra meetings about a problem that wasn’t their fault to begin with.

It’s not to say that UCLA hasn’t attempted to mitigate the consequences of impacted courses. Vazquez said the university has responded to enrollment criticism by creating the Degree Attainment and Student Success Task Force. Some of the initiatives have attempted to address these “bottleneck” courses through the creation of additional summer and online classes. In addition, the university recently created a program of summer intensive courses allowing students to complete an entire chemistry sequence modeled after a successful study abroad program.

But in the midst of an enrollment crisis, this just seems like another money grab for the university: making students pay extra thousands of dollars to complete their major in the summer instead of finishing it in the school year, like they have a right to.

Facebook might be a temporary fix for some students, and the university can continue doling out slaps on the wrist for using it.

But until UCLA addresses systemic issues with enrollment, a $300 price tag won’t be enough to faze students.

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Leslie Landis | Opinion columnist
Landis is an Opinion columnist.
Landis is an Opinion columnist.
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