It’s that time of the year again where Keene State College (KSC) students must begin thinking about what courses they will take next semester. For some students, it may seem like the worst time of the year, and for others, it’s a piece of cake. However, students aren’t the only ones who stress around this time of year.
The Registrar Office
KSC registrar Tom Richard deals directly with organizing class times and schedules, along with trying to accommodate 4,282 student’s schedules (as of the 2016-2017 KSC Factbook).
The registrar’s office has a huge role when it comes to building the schedules for students. “I would say the focus of the role is delivering the process for students to use to register for a semester like the fall semester. We provide a variety of support services to other components of the process,” Richard began. Richard also clarified that it’s actually the individual academic departments who plan the times that classes run. The registrar’s office did this years ago, but no longer does anymore.
They also provide the student information system to the academic departments to use as a tool to actually make their decisions about what courses are offered, how many sections will be run and what limits there are in terms of the number of seats in each section that is offered, which is how the academic departments will pick what time and which classes will run.
Richard also said that the registrar’s office provides a software know as 25Live Support. “25Live is a specific software that is designed for an institution to use to try to maximize the efficiency for using its resources for delivering a course schedule. So, just in very basic terms, that involves going up to the campus and doing a complete inventory of our academic spaces,” Richard said. This may include how many classrooms and/or labs are available, how many seats do they have, what kinds of equipment do they have and what kinds of chairs and tables are available.
Faculty and departments have this information available to them, and the idea is that they match up what their trying to offer based on the instructor’s needs and the slots available. Richards gave an example that a bunsen burner will be found in a biology lab and not in a Morrison Hall classroom, so there are certain classes that are clearly lab-type classes that must occur in certain types of spaces. The same goes if you’re taking a music class that requires pianos; you’ll need to be in a space with pianos.
Richard said academic departments will submit what they want to do with their schedules with their first choices, and the registrar runs it through the 25Live software which will use the department’s choices to whatever extent possible. He said what happens generally is they find there are too many classes that want to be run between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“What we do with that is we will place classes in the rooms to the extent we can, and we’ll identify those that don’t fit and we’ll send that back to the academic departments with all of the spaces, dates and times that are open. So they [will] tell us to put something in a particular room date and time, much like [a student] would adjust [their] schedule based on time and availability,” Richard explained. “So that’s, in a sense, a very simple thing [for] how the schedule gets built– us providing students with the ability to plan and register through the software that works appropriately.”
Richard also said that they have to build the prerequisites into the schedules. He said that they are constantly changing and the college also places about 15 rules on students before they are eligible to register (for example, updating your emergency contact information). They also take all of the new curriculum changes for each course and place that into the system, as well as the online college catalogs and the progress report. Much of the work that the registrar does is “in the background,” as Richard described.
“So as you can imagine, you get the sense of the kind of effort that the registrar’s office puts in, [which] is huge in terms of getting it up and running. There are a lot of folks who provide help with advising [and] those are crucial, and we’re trying to get more and more people involved actively in supporting students,” Richard said.
In fact, one of the biggest frustrations that Richard said the Registrar’s Office sees is when students put off registering. He said they love to see students feeling a higher level of urgency to register. Registering right away is important so that students don’t miss out on the classes they need. The scheduling doesn’t always fall on the registrar.
For example, there may be classes available to students at 8 a.m., but that may not be the time that students want to take them. Nonetheless, the students may have to take that class to have the prerequisites for the next class the need.
Another issue that Richard deals with is when students blame the Registrar’s Office for them not being able to register, when in reality, it is because they didn’t update their emergency contacts or they didn’t submit a health form.
“We’re all trying to work together… to help you register, not to prevent you from registering,” Richard explained. “We’re not the ‘Not-registrar office,’ we’re the Registrar’s Office, and so we try to do whatever we can do to work with both parties.”
Richard continued, “I don’t think there is a large group of people ‘they’ who are trying to make your life miserable. It’s tough because we’re the focus and we actually have a lot less control over the schedule than they think… Registration is this easy dog to kick, but if you sit down and look at the facts, it’s like, ‘Wait a second, you haven’t updated your local address… you have not handed in your health form, how’s that on us?’ I think my staff does a great job making it work, but you tend to hear the complaints more.”
There are a lot of things that go into planning a schedule. One of the key issues Richard explained is the challenge of trying to deliver enough seats to students to meet their needs and he described it as “a billion dollar question, especially with enrollment changing and numbers of majors are changing [and] the budget is changing.” Making sure there are enough faculty resources is a challenge, along with the space on campus and changing curriculums.
The registrar’s office also makes a lot of data available to the academic departments
“We do it in two major ways,” Richard said. “One way we do it through WebI. WebI stands for Web Intelligence, which is actually our college reporting software, so academic departments, particularly the chairs, have the access to a variety of WebI reports.”
One example he gave concerned the safety department. He said the safety department is a bit overwhelmed with the number of majors they have, so he ran a test to see what would happen if they raised the minimum GPA to 2.0 and to 2.5.
“I was able to run the report that if you go to 2.5, that will eliminate 29 [students]. My point is… at any point of day, you can see every major in the class and what their standing is, so if you have 50 seniors and you have a required senior capstone course, then you should be thinking about 50 seats. So that [data] is available, never perfect, but available.”
When it finally comes down to registering for classes, not everyone is happy. Richard explained that with any model, someone will always have to go last. The current order for registration is first years, seniors, juniors and then sophomores.
Richard was the one who came up with this model after the Registrar’s Office began noticing that when seniors would go first, they would often take 100 level courses for an easier semester. This made it difficult for first years to pick what they wanted because they had no prerequisites.
“At the time, I proposed the idea to the college provost, who has since moved on, and she and I brought it to the Student Assembly. We visited twice on the issue because there were concerns, but ultimately it was unanimously agreed upon by the students.”
As mentioned before, somebody has to be last. “You know what the sophomores forget?” Richard asked, “That they just went first. Somebody has to go last. Let’s say last year you took ITW 101. Do you care this year if there are enough seats? No, because you took it on time… sometimes you have to encourage students to move in a particular directions. If you understand how this moves, you can’t blow this off… do what you’re supposed to do when you need to do it.”
Richard also explained that KSC does have a priority system put in place. Students with special learning needs are prioritized over all students and pick classes first. Then, there is priority for athletes and for honors program students.
“What is important is that those priorities are at the front of their own class, not the whole college,” he explained. So junior honors students would only be ahead of other juniors, not the sophomore class too.
For athletes, the major issue is managing their practice schedules and the facilities. They only have priority when they are actually in season.
“We’re totally cognizant of trying to be fair to all students…That number [of students with priority] seems high, but it’s really only about 100 out of 4,000. Even if you take them all as a percentage, it’s less than 10 percent of our students,” Richard said.
This is Tom Richard’s 16th year in the Registrar’s Office. He said he took this job because of the interactions with the students. “It was one of the few places where I felt like I could have an impact on students … I take this seriously, I do it well.”
Brendan Denehy is one of the members of the registrar who works behind the scenes.
He is an academic class scheduler, and gets classes placed into the right sections. “There are about 1000 sections that go into a specialized spaced,” Denehy said.
He continued, “I used a specialized software that looks at what buildings the department’s want to teach in, size of the classrooms, the classrooms teachers want to teach in… and then based on that, we run the software and try to best fit the place and then i work with the department to look at the rooms that can’t fit whether we need to change the time.”
Students feelings on registration
KSC sophomore and management major with a specialization in human resources Courtney Sheehy is one student who is stressed about getting into the classes she needs. One of the reasons is because she is technically only four credits short of being a junior, but still has a sophomore time for picking classes. This makes it more difficult for her to get into the upper level classes she needs.
Sheehy said this caused difficulty getting into classes for last semester.
“I was trying to get into an upper level management class, and I’m only a sophomore, so it was filled by the time my registration time was, but I made contact with the professor and I eventually saw an open spot, I want to say like a month later, so I e-mailed him. I’m planning to have more issues when I decide my classes in the next week,” Sheehy said.
Sheehy also said this time of year is not her favorite time.
“You have your planned schedule and you think you have it planned out, but if you don’t get into this class then maybe you have to take something else,” Sheehy said. “You know, it’s a very stressful situation that I’m not looking forward to.”
Sheehy said she is “beyond stressed” about registration.
“Of course it’s after break, and professors just pile work on you. They think we have nothing going on in our lives…all of it is like a big storm coming in,” Sheehy described.
She said registration time was easy for her when she was a first year. All of her blocks were green. When explained why the order is the way it is, Sheehy said the “order sounds good when you say it like that.. [but] sometimes the classes I need will only run in the fall, so seniors will heavily be in there.”
The classes that Sheehy is worried about not getting into are her upper level management classes. She said she has been watching the number of seats available.
KSC junior Morgan Cantlin is a safety and occupational health applied science major, and she is stressed in particular over getting into her senior capstone. Cantlin said she is not happy about her time.
“I always get a late time and don’t get into the classes that I need,” Cantlin said.
Her first year was the year she got into all her classes, but now she finds it even more stressful because while she is trying to focus on her homework and exams that are coming up, she also has to worry about trying to get into her classes and running to the Elliot Center to get written into classes.
Cantlin said during sophomore year, she and her roommate Bella Littlefield, also a safety and occupational health applied science major, were in the TDS Center “freaking out trying to get teachers to sign [them] in.”
Littlefield said, “There’s so many people that don’t declare the major because you need to be declared to get into safety classes. The department chairs online will say, ‘You need to declare your major and this is the cutoff date,’ so people will declare it after and your seat will be taken by someone who has a better time slot even though they weren’t declared.”
Cantlin said she had a similar experience to this.
“Last semester, this kid who just decided to become a safety major got into the class before me and they didn’t have any seats in it, but luckily I weaseled my way through after my teachers weeded out the ones who weren’t safety majors. I cried to [a professor],” Cantlin said.
To avoid falling behind in credits, Cantlin decide to take a summer class. The class she took was $2,000 and lasted for a week.
Cantlin said she felt like students were paying so much to go to college and that the college should be able to accommodate what she needs for classes.
“If we can’t get into those classes we need, offer a deal for the summer…You’re not learning as much during a week as you would over a semester,” Cantlin said.
Similar to Cantlin, KSC junior Leah Powell is also a safety and occupational health applied science major, and she is minoring in environmental safety.
Powell said that she has experienced issues with registering “like every other Keene State student.”
One thing that affects Powell’s time for registering is financial holds on her account. Powell said that mostly every semester, her father is late with payments, so there will be a hold on her account when it comes time for registration.
This past semester, it even affected the number of classes she could take. “I usually have to ask my teachers to sign me into the class and sometimes they say no, so this past semester, I only could take three classes because one teacher wouldn’t sign me in, so [that] affects my graduation time,” Powell explained.
Powell is also nervous about getting into her senior capstone. This fear comes from the growing number of safety majors at KSC. Powell said she missed the summer class registration times because there was a hold on her account, so she has to make sure she can get into the right capstone because she thinks that she may be able to graduate early.
When explained why the order of registration is the way it is, Powell said that it made sense. She originally thought the order went first-year, junior, sophomore, senior.
Though Powell can’t register right away because of the hold on her account, she said, “I try not to worry about things I have no control over because of the hold right now and that’s on my dad, but I’m used to getting signed into classes by professors, so yeah, it’s stressful, but I can’t do anything about it.”
Registration for fall classes begins at 8:00 a.m on March 27.
Grace Pecci can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org