GUEST COMMENTARY: New ‘On-Time Registration’ helps students

Editor’s note: On-Time Registration will begin in Spring 2015. The On-Time Registration Faculty Senate Work-Group recommended the new Pima Community College registration procedure. The Chancellor’s Cabinet approved the changes on April 1.

By the On-Time Registration Faculty Senate Work-Group

We read with interest the March 13 Aztec Press editorial on Pima’s planned transition to on-time registration. We found it valuable for tuning in to initial student reaction to the proposed new procedure. We care very much about student perceptions of these proposed changes.

It is our concern for the academic well-being of students, after all, that motivated the set of changes we are proposing in the first place. For more than 20 years, faculty have been discussing the pros and cons of late registration and what registration policy alternatives might be more beneficial to students.

Many of the exact registration problems the Aztec Press editorial identifies are the issues that have driven faculty to attempt to find solutions. We think our plan for “on-time registration” addresses many of the registration issues that so frustrate students and that it will promote student success.

A central concern raised in the editorial is student access to classes that have already gotten underway. In particular, cases in which a class the student had validly been registered but was cancelled or turned out to not be a good fit for the student.

By having a policy of “on-time” registration, this would not affect those students who still might have the need to register late.

Such access will still be available, granted on a case-by-case basis by the faculty member teaching the course into which the student wishes to enroll.

By being able to confer with the student on an individual basis, the instructor will be able to better recommend a course to the student, given the student’s particular aptitude. Thus, the student will be a good candidate for registering late into that particular course.

Late-start courses will provide another option for students who experience financial aid delays, course cancellation, course mismatch or other reasons for needing to begin a course later than the traditional 16-week semester start date.

The on-time registration work-group has calculated the percentage increase needed in PCC’s current late-start options to counter-balance what would otherwise be undue rigidity of on-time registration.

The work-group will be working with department chairs of all different academic disciplines to substantially increase the number of 14-week late-start courses and second eight-weeks courses, so as to provide maximum access and flexibility for students who need to register later into the semester.

Late-start options allow students the flexibility of registering into courses later, when needed, but without the downside of missing initial lessons in the course–lessons that are often most crucial to student success.

Finally, one of the most appealing benefits of on-time registration is that it stands to actually decrease course cancellations (one of the reasons students might need to register late in the first place).

Simply put, many courses have had to be cancelled because they did not attract sufficient enrollment early enough in the semester to make them fiscally viable. This makes it difficult fo the academic deans responsible for keying class schedules to the PCC budget (and cancelling classes that appear to have “low enrollment”).

With a policy of on-time registration, students will be demonstrating their enrollment intentions in a timely manner. Deans will be able to see (rather than just guess or gamble on) which courses are viable and which are not. Therefore, there will be many, many fewer courses getting cancelled for low enrollment.

In sum, transitioning to a system of on-time registration stands to benefit students in three major ways: fewer class cancellations, greater flexibility of more options so that students can begin a course later in the semester but still attend from lesson one, and increased opportunity to get the one-on-one attention from a faculty member. This faculty will know whether or not a student requesting to register late into the particular course has the level of preparation to succeed in the course.

And that, for us, is what this proposed policy change has been about from the beginning: student success.

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