From a conversation among Slate staff members, it has become apparent that scheduling for the spring 2022 semester has been an uphill battle for students and faculty.
From seniors to first-years, students at Shippensburg University have had to alter their academic plans or prolong their studies since several majors are only offering a handful of spring classes.
The issue is multifaceted and complex. We acknowledge there is no simple or easy solution. However, the alarms it has raised cannot be ignored for the betterment of students and faculty.
With majors offering a low number of classes in the spring, students are railroaded into taking electives outside of their major they do not need to stay eligible for financial aid. Typically, students need to be “full-time” which means taking 12 credits minimum during a semester to receive financial aid.
Taking a class simply to stay able to get financial aid is typically something only seniors do. When first year through juniors are doing this, it becomes problematic as they are risking extending their study beyond four years.
On its own, taking longer than four years to get your bachelor’s degree is fine, because the traditional college timeline does not suit all people.
However, there are still many students at Shippensburg who want to be out in a four-year timespan. When we started college, officials told us it would be a four-year journey giving us the expectation that classes would be made available if needed. While that expectation was given pre-pandemic, the situation we are in now remains unfeasible.
Taking classes over the winter and summer terms is one solution to the lack of class availability in the spring. It also comes with downsides. Students who work or take care of others over traditional winter and summer terms are under more stress if they must make up for lack of class availability.
Needing to take a few scattered classes over winter and summer terms to make up for a change in major or a withdrawal is also not uncommon. But, it poses an issue when students have to take classes over these terms just to graduate in the traditional time frame.
The second solution to the lack of classes is to leverage your academic year to pry your way into courses. Unfortunately, unless you are a senior, students do not have any bargaining chips when it comes to negotiating their way into the classes they need. Needing a class during a certain year to stay on track for their major should be enough to get students into a class if they register on time. But that’s not how it is, unless you’re a soon-to-be graduate, you have almost no leverage.
When many of us entered college, we were told that we could graduate in four years with dedication and hard work. Yet, despite our literal sweat and tears poured into our degrees, the classes of 2021 through 2025 may not be able to do this.
Cutting costs by offering fewer classes is not an effective way to benefit Shippensburg University. Not only are students under more stress, at risk for increased debt and having their education affected by taking classes they do not need, our professors and advisers are negatively impacted.
Many of us watched our advisers work hard to fit as many of their advisees in for scheduling. Academic advisers must schedule students on top of the classes they teach and any other positions or obligations they have. Our professors are being asked to teach several classes or sections of classes on top of the insane workload the pandemic has forced upon them.
This is not fair to the hard-working mentors and teachers at Shippensburg University. How can they be expected to teach more classes than normal and schedule students with limited classes all while no additional professors or adjunct professors are being hired?
With faculty at their limits and with the small offering of classes for the spring, advisers are struggling to get students into classes that apply to their major or the student will enjoy. Some advisers have had to put students in classes about topics the student is not passionate about.
Yes, we all have had to take one if not more classes that were not about fun or entertaining things, but that is not the issue here. The problem is that when students are put into courses that do not apply to their studies or interests, they are more likely to do poorly in them. Students who may focus in English are left with the choice of electives far beyond their major like chemistry or business. No, it is not impossible for a student to enjoy a class that is vastly different from their degree. However, when a student is forced into it by a lack of university promised services, it makes their journey to graduation harder than necessary by lowering GPA or causing a potential withdrawal or increasing debt.
Classes are not just credits on a transcript for today’s college students. They are vast amounts of money. None of us choose classes lightly, because the harsh reality is college students are facing the highest amount of student loan debt in U.S. history. When the university decides to cut classes, they put our finances and budgets at risk. Students get told all the time about scholarship opportunities and how to budget approximately, but that won’t fix the fact that many of us are at risk for playing for classes we don’t need because so few courses are being offered this spring.
This is the recipe for an unsolved issue. Our advisers and professors are human, too. They have been placed with the responsibility of their students’ academic success and mental health since the COVID-19 pandemic began. From the student’s point of view, it seems the faculty are reaching their limits.
To decrease the pressure and solve this impossible situation for students and faculty there are two obvious potential solutions — offer more classes and/or hire adjunct professors. Having a single person do the work of two, three or four people can only be productive for so long.
Students and faculty alike are under pressure —professionally, academically and financially. Cutting classes has only exacerbated this issue and it does not seem to be providing an outcome worth sacrificing so much for.