CSUN adds more classes

Ashley Soley-Cerro

CSUN added hundreds of courses and increased the maximum unit capacity for students to 19 for the Spring 2011 semester.

“Money for this has come from two sources, savings from last year and a restoration CSUN will receive at the end of the year,” said Dr. Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president.

Eighteen and a half million dollars were restored to CSUN’s fiscal 2010-11 budget for enrollment and operating support, said Thomas McCarron, vice president of Administration and Finance and chief fiscal officer.

This restoration comes with an agreement from CSUN to add full-time equivalent students (FTES).  FTES is a way to measure the number of students based on number of units, 15 units being the equivalent to one student.

“While one student may be taking nine units and another student is taking six, they would equal one FTE,” said Dr. Cynthia Rawitch, associate vice president for Undergraduate Studies.  “CSUN has around 35,000 students but there are only around 26,000 FTES because not all of the students take 15 units.

“It is hard to say how many classes we have added because we are still adding classes, and we won’t stop adding classes until we have less of a demand for them,” Hellenbrand said.

Approximately 200 to 300 sections have been added since mid-November and the university has tried to make this an even distribution so one major does not get a majority of the classes compared to others, Rawitch said.

Courses are added based on several factors.  Bottleneck courses, or courses a student needs to continue in their major or minor, general education and other high demand courses are priority.

“Deciding which classes to open is an art, not a science,” Rawitch said.

While demand may be high for certain courses, several factors are involved in a course being added. Associate deans and department chairs have the final say as to what classes are added. The number of available faculty, advisors, classrooms available, students that want the course and patterns in what courses were taken in past years must be considered.

According to Rawitch there was a lack of teachers this last fall for freshman math and English courses because of the large number of incoming students. Teachers are also not always happy to take a class that is added last minute, such as classes that are still being added the first week of school.

Classrooms are not always available. Many students do not wish to take Friday or Saturday classes, but more are being added because there are not always enough classrooms for the number of classes that could be added.

For majors and minors that do not have many students, students have to be particularly careful about what classes they take, Rawitch said.

Sometimes a rotating schedule of classes needed for graduation is implemented, and if the student does not take a course that is required to continue on in their major/minor, it may be a year or two until it is available if it is not a popular course, Rawitch added.

“Students are doing the right thing by taking additional units, and I urge more to do the same while they have the chance.  No one knows what Fall 2011 will be like, but my prediction is not as good as this semester,” Rawitch said.

With a potential $500 million budget cut—an 18 percent reduction—hanging over the CSU system, Hellenbrand and Rawitch said students need to take extra courses while they are available.