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Opinion: Current enrollment system prevents Bruins from taking necessary classes

A laptop, which shows a locked political science class on the MyUCLA class planner, is pictured. UCLA must fix the enrollment system in order to make classes more accessible for all students. (Anya Yakimenko/Daily Bruin staff)

By Ria Sanghera

March 10, 2023 5:40 p.m.

This post was updated March 14 at 8:14 p.m. 

As the clock finally turns to enrollment time, countless Bruins will refresh the class planner on MyUCLA only to be met with red locks, yellow warning triangles and a sinking, hopeless feeling.

For many students, quarterly enrollments at UCLA are some of the most stressful times of the year. Battling enrollment restrictions or not being able to take major-requirement classes, students are often forced to take classes they have no interest in or even negotiate for others to hold seats in classes, with spots being traded for hundreds of dollars.

UCLA must improve its enrollment process to mitigate the issues students face and create a system in which all classes, both those required for majors and those taken out of genuine interest, are more easily accessible.

Implications that arise from the current enrollment process impact students who may still be deciding on their career paths. Marina Wong, a first-year violin performance student who attempted to switch to the mathematics of computation major, said she was unable to enroll in necessary classes.

“Since I’m not officially in the pre-major that I want to be in, I could not get a spot in CS (Computer Science) 32, even though I need to take that,” Wong said. “There’s only one lecture, and it’s completely closed.”

But for underclassmen, who often still have pre-major standing, and undeclared students, the ability to take classes to explore different subjects is integral.

When students are unable to take classes that pique their interest, they cannot explore prospective fields they wish to pursue. Combined with the need to graduate on time and satisfy major requirements, this can be nearly impossible.

However, Mark Banderas, the lead student affairs officer for the chemistry and biochemistry department – which usually sees a large influx of life sciences students trying to obtain classes to fulfill major prerequisites – said the department offers many resources for students to ensure they graduate.

“Our core principle, I would say, is let’s make sure that our undergraduate students are able to enroll in the courses that are required for their degree,” Banderas said. “First pass (and) second pass – that provides students the opportunity to prioritize which courses they enroll in.”

Banderas added that the first and second pass system is uniquely beneficial to UCLA since other University of California schools, such as UC Riverside and UC Irvine, have at times not included these features in their enrollment.

But that doesn’t mean the enrollment system is not flawed.

“There is a problem where sometimes you need more classes than you’re allowed to take in first pass, and then by the time you get to second pass, they’re all taken off and there’s no waitlist,” Wong said. “I had to take a different math class in order to make up for not taking (Mathematics) 32B this quarter.”

Wong added that many of her friends who took Mathematics 31A in the fall could not enroll in Mathematics 31B for winter and had to deviate from the series they were pursuing. This can be detrimental to students’ learning since they have to receive material out of order and knowledge cannot be continually built upon.

Ultimately, high demand for many classes exceeds the supply of professors, which assistant dean of undergraduate academic support Corey Hollis acknowledges.

“If we do see enrollment issues for core/key classes, we try to reach out to departments to see if additional seats can be offered, but there are often other non-financial limitations that hinder us (e.g., classroom space, availability of qualified lecturers and/or teaching assistants),” Hollis said in an emailed statement.

Given the steep cost of tuition to attend UCLA, taking courses unrelated to one’s major can make both parents and students feel as if they are wasting money and time.

While some students may have the financial means of extending their degree candidacy term to explore additional interests, this is not the case for all. The current enrollment process disproportionately affects low-income students who face pressure to enroll in irrelevant coursework to remain eligible for financial aid by taking at least 12 units.

However, Hollis said advising has taken on suggestions to try to level the playing field.

“We have tried to ensure equity as best as we possibly can, e.g., by removing AP/IB units from the enrollment appointment times because this unfairly impacted certain populations, or by ensuring that no class will be full before first pass begins,” Hollis added in the statement.

While these efforts are appreciated, the process should still fully accommodate all students’ needs. It is expected for university students to plan their coursework. However, it is unreasonable to expect them to struggle quarterly to take required classes.

After all, why is the onus on students to ensure they graduate through complex course enrollment strategies instead of on the university to make sure required courses are available to students who need to take them?

Enrolling in classes is the very foundation of any university experience. In order for UCLA to effectively serve its 31,600 undergraduate students, the university must improve its resources and provide additional support for students to efficiently enroll in classes.

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