Registering for Classes

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One of the unreported aspects of the recession, as far as higher education goes, is that it makes registering for classes very difficult. From the New York Times comes an article about signing up for classes in California, where overcrowding in the university system means students can’t take the classes they want (or even need):

Among other things, oversubscribed classrooms can force a student like [Juan] Macias, who must be enrolled full time to keep financial aid, to take courses that might have little to do with his progress toward graduation.

This semester, he is signed up for a biology class, but was unable to get into the companion laboratory class. His other courses are a workshop on the “history, aesthetics, mechanics and politics of rap music and hip-hop culture,” a class built around the campus radio station, KSFS, and a class called “The Origins of Rock,” which is supposed to be for upperclassmen.

Macias must take 15 credits a semester to receive financial aid. But because he can’t get into the classes he needs to graduate—despite waiting eagerly at his laptop for course registration to open—he takes apparently random classes.

Due to budget cuts San Francisco State University, which Macias attends, is now offering about 12 percent fewer classes than it did two years ago, though it has roughly the same number of students. So students take classes just to stay enrolled, which doesn’t work so well for their education: “I’m taking these classes that I don’t care about, getting bad grades in these classes,” Mr. Macias said. “That’s affecting my G.P.A., at the same time that I’m fighting so that I can have grades. It’s really contradictory.”

Of course, registering for classes has long been a problem at large schools, and one that doesn’t really seem to have mattered much in the long run (microeconomics, after all, will probably be offered next semester, too).

But it seems like difficultly registering for classes has some effect on the ultimate graduation rate. On-time graduation has a lot to do with taking classes needed for graduation in sequential order. If that isn’t a possibility, it’s no surprise the average student takes six years to graduate from college.

In Macias’s case, that could translate to six years of federal financial aid.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer