Low enrollment affects staff and students

Written By Tia Bailey, Co-Features/A&E Editor

COVID-19 has drastically changed the way things operate, both inside and outside of the university, and a struggle that faculty and students alike now have to deal with is low enrollment in classes.

Low enrollment causes classes to have to be cancelled, leaving students with gaps in their schedules, and professors with nothing to teach.

Sydney Jantzen, a senior photography major, has had issues with this recently. 

“My usual experience with scheduling is pretty simple,” Jantzen said. “Pre-COVID, I was able to follow my program guide to a T. Since COVID started, things got a little tricky because of low enrollment and classes being pushed online.” 

Jantzen has had three classes cancelled because of low enrollment within the last two semesters. 

“Because of those cancellations, I was down two electives my senior fall semester,” they said. “This issue made it so that my final spring semester had six classes, which isn’t the biggest issue, but trying to work with this course load as well as complete my senior thesis is a struggle.”

This semester, Jantzen’s Senior Thesis Capstone could not run as an actual class because they were two people short, so it is now being run as an independent study. 

While Jantzen understands classes being cancelled, they said they are still frustrated with the school for the expectations put on students to work it out themselves. These situations have almost caused them to have to take another semester of classes, or take extra online classes.

“During the fall semester, a month or so after I had already scheduled for the spring, my advisor informed me that I was still missing an elective,” they said. “The thing that really annoyed me about that is that by the time I was informed about the mistake, there was literally only one class open, so I had no choice but to take it.” 

Jantzen thinks that better communication and more help finding replacement classes would be helpful for students in this scenario. 

Heidi Ward, the Director of Community and Summer Education, has also been struggling with low enrollment issues this semester. 

“Low enrollment has been challenging,” Ward said. “We wanna offer classes to the public, we wanna fulfill those needs, and the worst is when you have to cancel due to low enrollment.”

She said it is sad to have to cancel a class because there are always one or two students registered, and they have to reach out to tell them that their class was cancelled. 

Ward does appreciate the amount of effort being put in to keep the classes going, and is actively trying to find classes to offer students.

“I think a lot of it is people are just really burned out with online classes,” she said. “They’re really not the same as in-person, and so I think a lot of people are like, ‘fall semester was okay and we kind of hobbled along,’ and then this semester I think that people are thinking, ‘I don’t wanna take another online class, I take online classes for school, so I don’t want my extracurricular activities to also be online.”

She says people are fatigued and probably wanting to fill their schedule with more relaxing activities rather than choosing to be more busy as in past semesters. 

This semester Ward said that four classes had been cancelled this semester due to low enrollment, but they are still running four other classes. However, there are still roadblocks that the program has to get over. 

“Right now, we have an instructor that’s in Texas, and she doesn’t have power, so she’s like, ‘I can’t attend my class tonight,’” Ward said. “So this whole semester has been a mess.” 

There has been a spike in low enrollment because of COVID-19, and Ward said the fallout of the virus has also added to this. 

“People don’t have as many finances to spend on these extracurricular activities, and then, of course, you have to have good internet, so some people are back at home,” Ward said. “Wherever home may be, there might not be a stable connection.” 

As for how it’s being handled, Ward said she thinks that they are doing the best that they can. She is proud that they are still offering classes and moving forward. She jokes that in a perfect world, it would be nice to fast forward through all of this, but she is thankful that the staff is still putting in the effort to offer classes to people. 

The school is offering on-ground summer classes and are hopeful for the season. 

“We’re looking ahead towards summer,” she said. “We are just kind of looking forward and pushing ahead.”