“IBIT is writing to inform you that MKTG 234 has been cancelled due to low enrollments. IBIT apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.”
Wait, what? After having registered for the class and paid tuition? What spots would still be available in other classes so soon before the quarter starts?
These were the questions running through the minds of many students at Bellevue College in late December 2011, after receiving an e-mail on their BC address informing them of the cancellation of one of their classes. For others, the news came too late: Jason Hutchison, a student at Bellevue College, had a class cancelled but only found out the first day of the quarter: “They said that an e-mail had been sent out but when I checked MyBC, the e-mail hadn’t been sent out.”
So what’s going on? Why have there been class cancellations this quarter? Jessie Wu, Associate Justice of Internal Affairs at Bellevue College’s Associated Student Government, says “It’s not only been happening this quarter,” so fear not new students! Others have been unlucky before you! We’re actually looking at an issue that’s been around for a while.
In the past year or so, Bellevue College has suffered from severe state budget cuts on education. According to Wu, these cuts have indeed affected certain services on campus: parking, for example, now requires purchasing a permit. She even added that tuition has gone up since the cuts.
Wu, however shed important light on the budget cut matter during her interview: “I want to clarify that the class is not affected by the budget cuts,” she said. “At the beginning of each quarter BC will check if the class has enough students registered to start it. If there aren’t enough, the class will be cancelled.”
According to Brandon Anderson, President of the Associate Student Government at Bellevue College, there could be several reasons for low enrollment in a certain class.
“The first is that you could have a typical ‘non-interesting’ class,” says Anderson. “Like, say if you have a class about building chairs! You may see that as being something that’s great […] but the rest of the world may not see it that way, so many people won’t show up for that class or may not even enroll in it.”
Another reason for low enrollment, according to Anderson, is due to the lack of “wooing” or “lobbying” of students to take a class if it’s not a prerequisite.
The final reason, according to Anderson, could be that a certain class could appeal to some students but not others. Not because it’s uninteresting, but because it doesn’t directly concern them. Therefore even if the instructor does lobby students to take a class, it will not attract many students.
Let’s sum this all up here: students don’t sign up for class. Enrollment is low. And when enrollment is too low classes get canceled right before the quarter starts.
So how low is low enrollment exactly? According to Wu, “A class might be provided for about thirty students and only eight or nine students will sign up for it,” hence, the cancellation.
According to Dr. Trevor Tate, instructor at Bellevue College, if there aren’t enough students the class wouldn’t be able to meet the various expenses of the course: cost of using the room, equipment, utilities, use of computers, facilities, teacher’s salary, etc. “Courses must pay their way,” Tate says.
So are we back to the budget cuts? Not exactly. According to Katherine Oleson, Chair of the Department of Communication Studies, “We want to be really efficient with all of our resources.” But it’s also much more complicated than just the budget of a class. There’s a very precise series of events and conditions that lead up to cancellation.
“It’s really unfortunate, but we can’t run a class that has a 28 capacity with only three people” said Oleson.
The goal is to run classes at full capacity. That being said, Oleson added that sometimes a class could be run “per cap,” according to its capacity. This means that when a class has low enrollment before the quarter starts, the chair of a department can problem solve with the dean of the division and the instructor of the course to keep the class open anyway. Although the decision depends on several factors, the instructor also has to agree to teach a class that he or she will get paid less for than a class that has met its full capacity.
So what can these students do to try to keep a class open? Wu had some advice on that: sign up for three or four classes before the quarter starts so that even if one is cancelled, you’ll still have the others.
Be it justified or not, when Bellevue College cancels classes, it creates a real issue. “If this continues and is a chronic issue, this is certainly something that would be at the front of our table; that’s a no brainer,” says Anderson.
Stop canceling classes. Students need a decent education.