By Ebony Ellis
College enrollment has continued to decline and has pressured Harold Washington’s administration to cut classes and place others on “hold,” a move that has inconvenienced students.
There can be delays for students who wish to finish their associate degrees in their particular programs of interest if the classes that they need are not available. Also, the unavailability of classes for students can cause lower enrollment and retention rates at HWC.
“For every class closed it is more difficult for students to pick classes for their schedule in a convenient and timely manner. When it is time for students to register, they will not be aware of options they do not know about” said Kamran Swanson, president of Faculty Council.
“Some courses were canceled, a majority have been put on hold,” said Lanisha Thomas, chairperson of Harold Washington’s mathematics department.
Department chairpersons have been asked by college administration to “hold” about 10 percent of their classes, which is approximately 130 classes in total, according to Armen Sarrafian, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs.
“The idea is to control spending and not run the risk of students being spread widely,” Thomas said. The classes held were “strategic enough to say that it was uncomfortable but it should still work. Students should not be alarmed. Depending on enrollment, more classes might be opened.”
“In our department, six classes are cut and another six classes are on hold,” said Matthew Shevitz, chairperson of the Humanities and Music department.
Classes were canceled and put on “hold” in response to declining enrollment, according to Sarrafian.
“In the fall 2016 semester our enrollment was down about 5.5 percent from the fall 2015 term. Still, we had to a large number of courses canceled,” said Sarrafian. “This disenfranchises students who were enrolled and they subsequently need to find other courses.”
After enrollment declined again in fall 2017, the administration was “obligated to look at ways to save without affecting enrollment revenue and offering as many seats as possible to students,” he said.
“One of the ways we can do that is to better utilize open seats in classes,” said Sarrafian. “We looked at courses that were below 70 percent utilization, classes that were only filling seven out of ten seats or less.”
Classes on “hold” would be available only after similar sections “filled reasonably,” as a way to match demand. But less popular classes would run in the fall semester, even if it was under the 70 percent threshold, said Sarrafian.
“The intention is that, ideally, if we reduce the number of sections of classes but increase the utilization of seats per class, we lower instructional cost while keeping enrollment stable, maintaining almost the same enrollment opportunity for students.”
Many of the staff and faculty are not pleased with the idea of there being less sections of classes available to students. The people who are being affected besides the current students are the adjunct professors who teach part time.
“There are a lot of instructors getting affected because we have an extremely talented group of instructors. Each person has their own strengths and without them, there will be a restriction of resources,” said Shevitz.
Many faculty members are not pleased with the class reduction.
“CCC has invested so much money in the past five years we wonder why we spend enormous amounts of money made to on things we have no clear benefit on and hiring people on how we should spend our money. We probably would not be in this position if the administration did their job,” said Swanson.
“It’s not easy to comment on,” said Shevitz. “I understand the concern about money, [but] cutting classes and limiting an education is not the way to go. It’s frustrating that we have to carry the burden and that there are factors beyond our control that limits us on how much education we can provide to the community.”
“I think it is a responsible thing for a college has to do, [but] it must be careful and considerate of students so they won’t feel limited. That is the challenge,” said Sarrafian.
Nothing will be announced to students about the class cuts and holds, according to Sarrafin.
“We have not planned to as this kind of review and scheduling usually takes place among administration and faculty and the students see the results later in the publicized schedule,” said Sarrafian. “The impact on students’ schedules and choices will hopefully be minimal.”