Departments examine enrollment, class sizes

As the student-to-faculty ratio increases in academic departments across campus, larger departments are exploring ways to manage enrollment and make class sizes more manageable.

According to Michael Schinski, dean of the School of Business, enrollment management is a concern the school has been working to address. The School of Business currently employs 20 full-time professors and has 746 majors as well as about 100 minors. The majors include business administration, accounting and economics majors, while the minors include business studies and economics.  

"The way we have dealt with it is you have to apply to get into the School of Business, and a few years ago we did increase the GPA requirement from 2.75 to 2.85. In a way, we took steps a few years ago to deal with some of our problems of overcrowding," he said. "Our class sizes were just getting larger than we felt was optimal for our students and faculty."

According to Schinski, while there was originally discussion of placing a cap on the number of students that can be admitted into the School of Business, the department chose to try this solution first. He said that while this was only the first step the school had taken to manage enrollment, increasing the GPA requirement has helped "level off" the student-to-faculty ratio.

Schinski said because of the fluctuating nature of the number of business majors from year to year, however, enrollment management is "still something we're continually evaluating."

"It's difficult when we've got to turn people away that are close to that GPA and are interested in being business majors and we have to say no," Schinski said. "Unfortunately … for the good of all of our majors, it's keeping some folks out. I don't like that part of the job."

George Briggs, chair of the biology department, said the department, which includes 894 majors and 71 minors, is looking at enrollment-management options to limit its size. One option the department has discussed would involve having a certain number of spots open for incoming freshman, and the spots would fill on a first-come, first-served basis.

"Another thing we've discussed is shutting off transfer students," Briggs said. "Right now, we get a substantial number of students that come into bio that are transfer students and they include some really good students … That's one of the upsetting things about this. No matter what you do, you might end up losing students that would have been really good to have here."

Briggs also said that the department has considered limiting the number of dual-majors who can enroll in the biology major.

The biology department currently employs 20 full-time professors as well as four part-time instructors. According to Briggs, as a result of the large number of students within the major, each professor advises between 40 and 50 students. Briggs also said the large number of students makes it difficult for professors to do certain projects in terms of labs and research.

"I think that's probably true for any department," he said. "It'd be nice if you were just teaching five people in class all the time … you could do a lot of wonderful things, but sometimes it isn't realistic."

According to Briggs, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Carol Long is organizing a committee to address enrollment management. The committee will include members of the Provost's Office, the Office of Admissions, Briggs and biology professor Harold Hoops. The committee has not yet met for its first meeting.

"It is a problem that we have too many majors, but none of the solutions are going to be nice," Briggs said. "All of them have negative aspects that at least some people don't like, either certain members of the department or the administration outside of admissions, or admissions … They all have a say in this."