CNS Deans Discuss Efforts to Improve Registration Crunch

PEARL XIN Most CNS students are no strangers to the crunch that comes with every registration season. Those in particularly saturated departments have undergone the stress of seeing every upper-division elective or lab section close in the first few days of registration. Dr. David Vanden Bout, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education, and Dr. Mike Raney, Assistant Dean of Advising, share their thoughts on the causes of the current registration crisis and address the ongoing efforts in the college to rectify the situation.

The cause:

It’s actually good news. This year, the rate of academic probation for first-year students in CNS after their first semester has continued its downward trend from 10-12% to an all-time low of 3.3%. According to Dean Raney, a combination of first-year communities, the BSA degree, college preparedness measures, and other factors has contributed to these leaps in freshman retention and success within the college.

VDB + RaneyFor the first time in its history, CNS had 2000 graduates in the ‘13-‘14 school year. The rate of freshmen dropping or failing introductory calculus has dropped from 50% to 20%, partially due to preparedness exams such as the ALEKS.

All the progress in freshman success means more students continue on to take upper-division courses and labs, creating pressure for the college to provide additional sections in the face of growing demand. CNS has ballooned to over 12,000 students (including double majors), and historically, around 1000 internal transfer students add a CNS major each year in the absence of any screening procedure.

The solutions:

The college is in the process of hiring additional tenured-track and adjunct faculty in the areas with the most need, namely Computer Science and Anatomy and Physiology. The challenge in hiring comes in the form of competition from firms and other universities. “We’re looking for people with a PhD, strong skills in their field, and a good teaching record,” commented Dr. Raney. “Those people aren’t just sitting around unemployed, waiting for us to find them.”

Nevertheless, the college is in the process of trying out Computer Science lecturers, and at least one is scheduled to start next fall. However, considering the scope of the problem, students may continue to face obstacles during registration. “This won’t be an immediate fix,” Dr. Vanden Bout admits. “CS will continue to be a crunch.”

Moreover, the college is working on increasing the number of graduate fellowships in the following years. According to Dr. Raney, “this should resonate with undergrads because more fellowships mean more TAs, stronger grad students, and more sections for classes where TAs are involved.”

Dean Vanden Bout and Dean Raney also hope that the new Bachelor of Sciences and Arts (BSA) degree will alleviate pressure on once-required upper-division labs and classes by giving students more flexibility in their degree plans. In particular, fewer lab requirements in the new degree plans mean a decrease in demand for labs where physical space constraints are the main barrier to more sections.

In addition to the new faculty and degree options, starting this year, potential internal transfers to the college must now apply through a holistic admissions process to add a CNS major. Admissions criteria include, but are not limited to: the resources available in the intended department, reason for transfer, GPA, and semesters/hours completed at UT. CNS students can still move freely within the college, except into overenrolled departments, including Computer Science, Public Health, and Environmental Sciences. For more information about the internal transfer process, visit the CNS internal transfer website.

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