Course request is a stressful process for Rachel Saenz.
The sophomore communication major often has to add classes unrelated to her degree because there are not enough courses available in her major or minors.
“It’s just been a mess,” Saenz said. “They’re pretty much piece-mealing the entire thing.”
Saenz was frustrated by the lack of information she received from advising, which ended up hurting her.
“They tell you to take two Comm classes per semester as a Comm major,” Saenz said. “I’ve been taking three, so I thought I was getting ahead. But it really hurt me in the end, even though they informed me to do that.”
Many students find that classes they need to take to graduate on time are not being offered when they need them, and a lot of time it is due to a lack of professors available to teach them. This lack of options results in some students not being able to graduate on time or take their desired classes. Many have to settle for something else.
In order for Saenz to continue in her major, she has to take prerequisite courses, none of which were offered this past spring semester, forcing her to take unnecessary classes to maintain full-time student status.
Professors are feeling this pressure as well. Larger departments, such as the department of communication, are finding they have to increase the size of some classes or limit course offerings in order to handle all the majors they currently have.
“We need a reasonable number of faculty for the number of majors, and we’re hurting,” said Marlene Preston, assistant department head and undergraduate director for the department of communication.
And the communication department isn't the only one. Many other departments, especially in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, do not have a sufficient number of instructors to offer all the classes they would like. Even if they technically offer enough classes to allow students to graduate, there are limitations on students' abilities to customize their curriculums to suit their interests.
According to Courtney Thomas, a visiting assistant professor and an advisor for political science, this problem is often solved by having graduate students teach classes as opposed to actual faculty.
Other departments, such as the department of chemistry, do not face as many pressing issues when it comes to finding instructors.
“In terms of faculty teaching classes, we have not had that problem yet, but we are a little stressed,” said James Tanko, professor and chair of the department of chemistry. “We get the funding for hiring, but oftentimes the funding comes late. And in some of the higher level courses, it’s hard to find someone on such short notice.”
Tanko said chemistry’s biggest issue is filling lab space. Some students who need both a lecture and a lab for a class, especially general chemistry, may have to take the lecture one semester and the lab another semester.
But according to Mark McNamee, the university provost, the issue of being able to graduate on time is not as prominent as a lot of people believe.
“People have this myth that it takes five or six years to graduate, in fact most students graduate in a little over four years,” McNamee said. "If you look at the pattern, we do a pretty good job with students graduating in four years. This doesn’t mean that every student and every major doesn’t have a problem. We’ve never had as much faculty as we’ve needed, but despite that students are graduating.”