Enrollment policy struggles to be fair

Max Rust

A University policy that aims to reduce summer session costs by eliminating classes with low enrollment left many faculty members and students seeking alternative summer plans this week.
Twenty-two summer session courses were cancelled last week leaving 45 students without classes and instructors, such as Larry Katzenstein, without a job.
Katzenstein, an associate education specialist in the Institute of International Studies planned on teaching International Relations 3981, a course designed to help international relations students work on their senior papers.
However, only two students signed up for the class, six short of the number needed to keep the course alive.
The two-year-old policy states that all summer day classes at the 1000 and 3000 levels must have at least eight registered students in order to avoid cancellation. Classes at the 5000 and 8000 levels are required to have at least five students enrolled to avoid cancellation.
Before the policy was implemented last year, summer course availability was not dependent upon student enrollment.
Last year, the policy resulted in the cancellation of 31 courses, leaving about 80 students looking for other options.
The policy does not apply to individualized instruction, such as internships or directed study, nor does it apply to extension classes.
“(The cancellation policy) was one of many things we did to try to save money,” said Jack Johnson, summer session director. In 1995, the program’s $8 million budget was cut by about $500,000. In 1996, the summer session office operated with an $8.5 million budget after almost $400,000 in cuts.
Johnson said the new policy helped save the office about $105,000 last year.
In addition to the cancellation policy, the office has taken other steps to counter the budget cuts. The office reduced the number of courses offered and reduced the office’s administrative staff. However, most of the savings come from unpaid instructor salaries.
For example, Katzenstein will lose the $4,000 he would have made teaching IR 3981. Despite this, Katzenstein said he will try to help out the two students who signed up for his course.
“By the time our students get to their senior year, frequently they don’t have the background to write a major research paper,” he added. “If nobody is around to help, it’s very possible that either one of these (students), or both of them will wind up not being able to accomplish what they want to on their seminar paper.”
Two years before coming to the University, Katzenstein taught at Appalachian State University where he said the system was more fair to both students and teachers.
Appalachian State guarantees that an instructor will be paid for teaching a summer class before the class is announced for enrollment, Katzenstein said. For this reason, he added, a broader array of courses are available to students, and teachers have more incentive to stay for the summer and teach.
Another reason for cancellations is the unwillingness of many instructors to teach when they have other summer plans.
“People are not going to commit themselves to teaching for that chunk of their summer when they could do other things like take grants or work on their research,” Katzenstein said.