Fall class offerings on the rise
August 30, 2008 2:50 PM
As some students scramble for this semester’s scarcer classes before the Sept. 9 add deadline, SF State administrators are doing something unexpected – adding more sections.
Since the beginning of August, 46 sections were added; some as recently as last week, said John Kim, acting associate vice president of academic resources. Students can view recently added sections as they become available through a new feature of the online class schedule.
“The budget situation is serious,” Kim said in an email. “The university is working very hard to try to meet the needs of students, but there are limits to what we can do with the reduced funding we expect to receive from the state.”
Some departments requested additional funding to add sections to their programs to meet student demand.
“We have tried to fund these requests for additional sections as we can,” Kim said, “and we have added a number of sections based on the recommendations of [SF State] colleges and the Office of Undergraduate Studies.”
But with the semester already in progress, adding sections is a difficult logistical problem to solve, Kim said.
Even with funding, he said, there are problems finding instructors to teach additional classes without advance notice – throwing them into a new class without time to develop a curriculum or prepare a lesson plan.
Kim indicated that classrooms that can hold enough students at specific times are scarce and matching the needed students, teachers and facilities has proved to be a difficult task.
The number of sections available to students is still in flux, Kim said. Classes with low enrollment are cancelled and new sections are added when enough students are interested to justify the financing, Kim said. But there are still significantly fewer classes than in fall 2007.
“As of the beginning of this week, we were offering 3,529 course sections—140 sections fewer than last fall, which is 3.8 percent fewer sections than last fall,” Kim said.
Although there are slightly fewer students on campus this year based on the Office of Enrollment Management’s numbers, it is not enough to offset the reduction in available class sections.
No students have been turned away from university enrollment despite fewer class offerings, said Jo Volkert, associate vice president for enrollment management, in an email.
“Overall headcount is 80 students fewer than last year at the same time,” Volkert wrote.
Based on an estimated average class size of 35 people, those 140 missing classes could represent close to 5,000 students who aren’t getting a class they want or need.
Making the most of the offerings the university can provide and planning strategically for the future can mitigate some of the damage. And some departments are attempting to collect information about how many students are turned away from full classes, Kim said.
Knowing how many students were turned away, Kim said, is a beneficial tool to prepare for the next semester.
“Information departments collect can help them plan for the spring [semester], since unmet demand for specific sections this fall should be reflected in demand for those sections next spring,” Kim said.
Kim is not the only one making contingency plans for a future with diminished resources.
The state Senate is currently negotiating the creation of a rainy day fund. But as prudent as the name sounds, some lobbyists and organizations say the structure of the fund could seriously hamper future California State University budgets.
Ramon Castellblanch, president of SF State’s chapter of the California Faculty Association, said he agrees.
In the short term, the new fund would set aside three percent of state revenues to build a surplus account equaling 12.5 percent of yearly revenue. Until the fund is built up, a portion of state money would be removed from the general fund, Castellblanch pointed out, at a time when the economy has already hurt California schools.
“And even after the fund is complete,” Castellblanch said, “if the whole school has a problem and goes to hell-in-a-hand basket, that won’t necessarily mean a ‘rainy day,’ and the whole system breaks down.”
“I have students on the floor in both of my classes right now,” Castellblanch, who is also an assistant professor of health education at the university, said. “People need to pay attention to what is happening with the state’s money. Mothers in my classes are starting to think about what the school is going to be like when their kids go to college.”
If the budget for the new fund is based on current budgets for government services, Castellblanch said, then the way the school is barely making it without falling to pieces will be the baseline – a baseline, Castellblanch said, that is unacceptable.
“I feel like the whole thing is intimidating to students,” he said when asked about possible solutions. “We have to get motivated, because if these things go through they are going to be so long term, it will literally go beyond us, to the next generation.”
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