Additional class seats become available to graduating seniors

Ashley Soley-Cerro

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An unknown number of class seats became available this week to accommodate graduating seniors, said Vice Provost Cynthia Rawitch.

“We thought we were able to serve the demand for those most in dire need, graduating seniors, and that clearly was not done, so we decided we at least have to open enough seats for those students,” Rawitch said. “Students spoke, they told us, they wrote to us, parents wrote to us, parents called us and so we’re trying to do the best we can.”

Representatives and department chairs from each college met with Rawitch late Monday night to discuss how many seats were needed to accommodate graduating seniors. The number of seats requested by each college were approved Tuesday. The only colleges to not request additional seats were the College of Business and Economics and the Michael D. Eisner College of Education, Rawitch said.

“We’re not hearing a whole lot of students complaining that they didn’t get their classes at this point,” Rawitch said. “I don’t know what that means, whether they’ve given up on us and decided there’s no point in it, I hope that’s not why, or perhaps through dint of effort they got 12 units, which we said all along we can only be sure you’ll get.”

And for the others…

Some representatives considered accommodating other students that have had difficulty adding classes, mainly transfers and international students, but the open seats were not created for them, Rawitch said.

“This is not a wholesale lifting of the cap, this is trying to inch it up little by little so we can serve those most in dire need of the classes,” Rawitch said. “It is an issue for international students, they spent a lot of money getting here, they paid a lot of money to be here and we kind of have a moral obligation to try and get them into at least the 12 units they need (to stay).”

While the open seats are intended for graduating seniors, the university does not have an umbrella policy for how professors should add students, Rawitch said.

For those students who may lose their financial aid because they were unable to get 12 units, Rawitch suggested if they are unable to take fewer units and pay for them, they take a semester break or take classes at a community college to fulfill the remaining units required. Students that choose to stop-out may enroll at CSUN without reapplying, which Rawitch believes can be done up to three semesters.

“This is not a science, this is an art, we are trying to figure out how to serve the graduating seniors but if by some slight chance someone else finds a seat as a result of this I think that person would be able to have that seat,” Rawitch said.

The potential penalty

Spring registration offered less class seats to students and restricted them to a 15-unit cap, graduating seniors being the only exception, in the hopes of avoiding a $7 million penalty from the CSU for going over enrollment, the Sundial reported in November.

CSUN accepted its largest freshman class, 5,200 students, in Fall 2011, leaving the campus at 6.3 percent over its enrollment capacity. The CSU allows campuses to exceed enrollment by 3 percent, and penalizes campuses for going over this number, the Sundial reported in November.

Penalties for going over this number are based on the academic year, and CSUN will not be penalized for exceeding enrollment in the fall if it can bring the number down to 3 percent in the spring, said Stephanie Thara, spokesperson for CSU.

The CSU will assess potential financial penalties after census week, the fourth Friday of the semester when CSUN will inform the CSU of its total spring enrollment, Rawitch said.

While CSUN is trying to avoid this penalty, it is difficult to say with certainty what will happen before census week, Rawitch said.

If CSUN does receive the $7 million penalty the effects will not be felt in the classroom, Rawitch said. The bigger issue is the potential $200 million cut to the CSU system if voters do not pass Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative in November. CSUN alone will be cut about $15 million if this happens.

“It’s $14 or $15 million, and that will be a lot more painful,” Rawitch said. “Then we will begin to see it because there’s not much more we can cut besides classes.”

Other CSU campuses facing penalties for going over enrollment are Bakersfield, Dominguez Hills, San Jose, San Marcos and Stanislaus, Thara said.

Penalties for going over enrollment go against the general good, Interim Presidnet Harry Hellenbrand said in a letter titled “A Time to Re-Boot.”

“To restrict access this year in order to dramatize the need for more funding next year shortchanges students every year,” he said.

Effects in the classroom

Although several seats have become available, only two or three additional class sections were added to accommodate the colleges’ needs, Rawitch said.

Catching up will not be difficult for students adding classes this week, said Ben Mallard, professor of electrical engineering.

“Students stuck around from day one, and to their reward they’ll get a seat,” Mallard said.

Mallard teaches five classes; 10 seats have become available in two of his courses.

“It’s unfortunate for students that this situation was placed upon them, but I understand we’re in a budget crises and to have the adequate and available resources to provide a good education instructors can’t have so many students they can’t grade everything, because students deserve a fair evaluation in their courses,” Mallard said.

Graduating seniors may be celebrating but other students are still struggling to find courses.

“Registration was horrible, the date sucked, I couldn’t get classes whatsoever so I took the only classes left,” said Zach Alamoodi, a third year sophomore mechanical engineering major. “The only GE I need is speech and I didn’t get it.”

Alamoodi was able to enroll in 12 units, none of which he needs to graduate, but he is choosing to take the courses in order to keep financial aid and scholarships.

“I’ll just stick with 9 (units) and find a way to pay, because I don’t want to drop out,” said Tony Zavala, a recent transfer and junior sociology major. “At this rate, I don’t know when I’ll graduate.”

The Fall 2012 solution

CSUN is currently working on applications for the Fall 2012 freshman class and will lower enrollment by partially basing it on students’ location, Rawitch said.

Those applying from the LAUSD and surrounding independent school districts as well as Ventura County are known as tier one students. They have a better chance at attending CSUN in the fall than non-tier one students, Rawitch said.

“We have no ability to say to a (tier one) student, ‘we’re sorry, you’ve met all the requirements but you can’t come anyway,’” Rawitch said. “If you’ve met the requirements, you have the GPA and the SAT score, the index that lets you in, and you apply to us and you want to come here, we have to let you in. Where we do have discretion is tier two, everything that is not tier one.”

Transfer students cannot be denied admission based on their location, so the administration will control enrollment by regulating the freshman class.

“We are looking at taking almost no students from tier two,” Rawitch said.

CSUN’s largest freshman class was due to an increase in graduation rates in the LAUSD last year and more students deciding to attend college because of the depleting job market, Rawitch said.

Her advice to students is simple.

“We’ve spent the last three or four years telling students, graduate, get out of here, the tuition is going up, come out a semester earlier and save yourself $3,500.”