The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of University Registration
By: Student Worker #1
I recently read this article from Inside Higher Ed that addresses a new registration procedure for students. This past year their students registered for classes for the full year (fall and spring semesters). This led to exploring what registration procedures other universities follow and to analyze whether or not these policies will help students develop better class scheduling skills here at UT. I found procedures that are helpful, other procedures that exhibit “tough love”, and one procedure that was downright awful.
Let’s start with the downright awful procedure, which can be found at the University of South Florida. There, the registration times for students are based on overall GPA, with higher GPAs getting priority.1 When I first read this I was shocked. I can only imagine how students at UT would react if we had this system in place. I think this policy is only beneficial to some students. The problem with this policy is that registration is based on overall GPA. At first glance this seems fair since the best students should deserve the best classes. However, this system fails to take into account students focused on improvement. A student may do poorly their first year but turn it all around and have a great sophomore year. A student may also change their major to a study they enjoy and also improve their GPA. These students are not bad students but because of their poor performance in the past they forced to still be low on the priority list for registration.
If a student changed his major he/she must catch up to their peers if they want to graduate on time, but if they have a low GPA due to performing poorly in coursework it puts them at a disadvantage. In order to help students who are improving their GPA, but still recovery from bad past semester South Florida should have registration priority based on the GPA of the past semester rather than the overall GPA. This would still reward students for academic excellence, but also provide incentives for improvement and encourage students to find a major that best suits them. I still do not think that registration should be based on GPA because students already have incentives for getting good grades that far exceed a registration period.
A good procedure is multi-term registration. At Cleveland State University and Michigan State University students must register for an entire year rather than just a single semester.2 Cleveland state officials or administrators believe that this policy allows their students to graduate on time by offering the necessary number and type of courses.2 Although multi-term registration requires more commitment, Michigan State is still flexible. They provide safety nets for students who want to change their major, that way students are not stuck for a full year in a major they decided not to pursue. They also allow an add/drop period up to the fifth class day which allows students to change their schedule.3
I think UT students can benefit from that because it will give them more options on what to take for the entire year. Students will then have an easier time planning their schedule and create a more balanced course load. Plus, many students dread registration. Having to only register once a year in the spring will help ease some of this stress and frustration; however multi-term registration definitely has its flaws. For example, students may need to rearrange their schedule if they choose to drop a course in the fall that is a prerequisite class for one they registered to take in the spring. This, however, may encourage students to stay in their classes because there are more consequences to dropping a class.
At the University of Oregon, students have a small window between when they can add/drop a course.4 Oregon only provides eight class days to add/drop a course compared to UT which allows twelve class days. Oregon also allows professors to drop students from a class that do not show up on the first day. If you think that is harsh, Southern Nevada does not allow late registration at all.5 I am sure students will have a negative response to hearing this; however, these policies can be a little bit of “tough love” for students. If a student knows that he/she must decide by the first day of class to drop a class they may research the class in depth rather than wait a few weeks to decide to drop the class. Students will become more proactive in managing their course selection skills. Who knows they might even read the course descriptions. Although this will not be an ideal change for students it will help them develop better ways in managing their course load in the long run.
Changing a registration policy is tough and there is no perfect way of doing it. However, other universities have had success adopting unique ways for students to register for classes. These procedures are not just efficient from an administration point of view, but they can be beneficial for students to become more independent.