Dear Lou Anna,
Every spring, MSU students wait anxiously to find out the exact date and time of their enrollment appointments, hoping they\’ll be able to create the perfect schedule for the next year. Schedules are supposed to be flexible enough to work around hours at an internship, allow students to take a course with a favorite professor or even just avoid those dreaded 8 a.m. classes. More importantly, all MSU students must complete certain classes to finish their major, and if those classes are all filled before it is their turn to register, students have to hope others will drop the class, leaving open seats, or just wait until next year.
The waiting game becomes easier as students gain credits and status within the university, as seniority affects the time students are allowed to enroll. Currently, the order of enrollment is students with disabilities, athletes, Honors College students, seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen. The first two stages in this process allow flexibility for students who need certain accommodations in accessible classrooms or who must adhere to specific guidelines for their sport. However, a subject of debate has always been the ability of all Honors College students, even freshmen, to surpass other Spartans with equal or greater levels of seniority in the enrollment process. In essence, an Honors College freshman could steal a seat in a required class offered in a senior’s last semester, and some students have been asking, L.A., if this is truly fair.
[enroll]In early December, the Associated Students of Michigan State University\’s (ASMSU) Academic Assembly proposed a change to the university\’s enrollment scheduling policies that would rearrange that schedule. “The original thought was that it would make it [fairer] to enroll,” said Brandon Sethi, an interdisciplinary studies in social science senior and external vice-chairperson of the assembly. “It seemed a little odd that a first-year freshman enrolled before a senior.”
On the surface, these concerns seem perfectly valid, but after discussing the proposal with Honors College faculty, it became clear changing the order of enrollment was not the solution, and the proposal has since been abandoned. Unlike honors programs at many other universities, which offer a specific curriculum to honors students, the Honors College at MSU doesn\’t have its own curriculum and faculty. Instead, MSU\’s program allows students to focus on their own interests during their undergraduate careers.
“For a very long time, the hallmark of honors education at MSU has been the flexibility that we offer,” said Steven Kautz, associate dean of the Honors College. The Honors College emphasizes that flexibility when recruiting both on campus and with high school seniors around the country: Kautz believed this system has been in place since the college was founded in 1957. “The enrollment system has a strong connection to the type of honors college that we are.”
Students gain admission to the Honors College as incoming freshmen by scoring a 30 on the ACT or a 1360 on the SAT, or by maintaining a 3.5 GPA after their first semester at MSU. Journalism sophomore Heather Guenther, who applied to the Honors College after the first semester of her freshman year, said that flexibility was her major reason for applying to the college. “For me, that was my main motivation, knowing that I would get my chosen classes,” Guenther said. “I wouldn\’t have the added pressures of having to get overrides into small classes.”
Many honors students are also encouraged to take graduate classes as part of their undergraduate curriculum; this is another reason flexibility is key to the program, according to Kautz. Students who choose to take graduate classes as undergraduates need to be able to take the introductory courses that will prepare them for those classes without being hindered by enrollment restrictions. “That system only works if people have access to the courses,” Kautz said. “The success of the program depends on enrollment priority.”
Because of the reliance of the Honors College on the current enrollment policies, ASMSU will need to look elsewhere for a solution. “Because it\’s such a free system, honors students needed that flexibility to enroll,” Sethi said. “Once we got those answers, it made a lot more sense.”
[registration]Outside of the Honors College, are students still able to find the classes they need? The responsibility of balancing the needs of each student should rest with the university administrators, although it is no easy task. How are certain students deemed “more important” and thus given a free pass to cut in the class registration line? Anthropology senior James Thorpe thinks availability of classes really depends on a student’s major. “Bigger majors have bigger classes,” Thorpe said. “There aren\’t many [anthropology majors], but there are a lot of topics we have to cover.”
Thorpe said one of his biggest problems has been juggling classes only offered one semester every other year. Acting quickly is key, he added. Thorpe is taking a class with only six students, and he feels he is only in that class because he didn\’t wait around. “I\’m pretty sure the only reason I got into that class is because I got the email and immediately went down to change my schedule,” he said.
But even if students do act quickly, they still face problems when classes simply aren\’t available. No one wants lecture classes to be even larger, and the purpose of small, focused classes is defeated by increasing their sizes.
“I do think that exploring resource allocation and demand versus supply in allocating classes is important,” Sethi said. “How do we offer more classes without just adding more seats?”
There needs to be a balance between the flexibility required by the Honors College – a flexibility that is undoubtedly one of the biggest draws for academically successful students to choose MSU over other schools – and the ability of every student to enroll for the classes he or she needs. “Enrolling early meant being able to plan further ahead,” chemistry sophomore and Honors College student Jessica Haggerty said.
However, it may be time to look for a compromise between ASMSU\’s proposal and the Honors College\’s policy, whether by adding a section – allowing for more leniencies for overrides – or simply holding a few seats in required classes until after honors students have enrolled. While adding more seats to current classes may be an easy answer, the solution is not that simple. It\’s time to take a look at classes that are consistently filled to capacity and find a solution that works best for everyone – honors and non-honors alike.
Waiting N. Line