Other than unbridled alcoholism, few problems are more academically harmful, ideally avoidable, and unsettlingly common among college students than the inability to sign up for required major classes. Important prerequisites like Chemistry 1A are perpetually unable to enroll all the students who wish to register, leaving them in limbo on notoriously long waitlists. The problem is rooted in the University of California, Santa Barbara’s unbalanced ratio between students admitted to space for lectures and the availability of professors. The brunt of the pain is felt by the students who cannot get their required classes, who in some cases are forced to drop their major or even stay a fifth year, while the university benefits from its own over-enrollment through cold, hard cash.
Naturally, over-registration is most common among introductory classes, which are often flooded by multitudes of students from all class levels. A large number of the students registered in intro classes are enrolled because they need the course for a random lower division requirement, but sometimes these courses are in such high demand that registration is severely restricted for all but a select few majors. For example, Math 3A and B are two introductory classes that cover basic calculus required for all science, math, and engineering majors at UCSB. Last quarter, both classes were limited to solely math-related majors for the first and second pass times. This leaves only the third pass time for students of other majors to register, when available classes are few and far between. Lower division classes, including Math 3A and B, are often prerequisites for other major requirements, and missing them can leave a student’s academic goals in an expensive state of stagnation.
Difficulties registering for required classes do not always end once a student has transcended the introductory level: plenty of upper division classes have not been able to admit all of their major students either. For instance, second-year biology major Spencer Kim was unable to register for EEMB 102—Macroevolution—even though it is required for her major. Since she is unable to take EEMB 102, she says, “I’m taking no classes that have to do with my major this quarter, which is devastating since I’m basically wasting a quarter.”
Problems with over-enrollment impact humanities courses as well. For example, second-year global studies and sociology major Hunter Jones was unable to register for Global Studies 1, the basic prerequisite for his major, in both Winter 2014 and Winter 2015. According to Jones, “Registration closed quickly and both times I went to try and crash it they said, ‘Unless you’re someone who needs this to graduate, you’re not going to get it.’” Fortunately, Global Studies is set up so you can take the upper division classes without taking Global Studies 1, but what is the point of having an intro course if you are not allowed to enroll until you have taken upper divisions?
Over-enrollment is common in EEMB, global studies, and chemistry simply because they are common majors at UCSB. Less popular majors, like physics, have little trouble enrolling their students in required classes. If making room for non-major students in large major classes was the problem, then it could be attributed to a large student body. However, when students are having difficulty enrolling in their own major classes, the blame falls on the university.
Introductory classes are vital not only to the understanding of a subject, but the discovery of interest or passion. Exploring different subjects is especially important for first- and second-year students, who usually have the fewest units, and therefore the latest pass times. How can students realize they have a passion for science if they cannot even get their foot in the door? Without time to fully gauge their interest or aptitude in a subject, students can choose the wrong major, with disastrous effects on their GPA, not to mention wasted quarters and mental effort. Time is a luxury most university students cannot afford, and it is imperative that UCSB does not lose touch with our financial and academic struggles.