Editorial: NIU’s undergraduate catalog should reflect the amount of classes offered

By Editorial Board

NIU has earned a C average in coursework this year.

The university offers many courses to students on the pages of its undergraduate catalog, but it only offers about 71 percent of those courses in a classroom.

In accountancy, 77 percent of courses that appeared in the ’11-’12 undergraduate catalog were offered in the fall or spring semester of the ’11-’12 academic year. Sixty-seven percent of communication studies courses in the catalog were offered this year.

The Northern Star editorial board chose one course subject from each college (Business, Education, Engineering and Engineering Technology, Health and Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts) to see how the courses shown in the catalog compared to those actually offered.

While the subject selected from the College of Education – special education – had an impressive 93 percent of courses offered, the selection from the College of Visual and Performing Arts – art history – had a measly 43 percent.

While the editorial board’s findings are not comprehensive or even representative of every department at the university, the results reflect some disappointing options for students come registration time.

Registration for the spring semester started today at 7 a.m. for students with disabilities, intercollegiate athletes and University Honors students. Open enrollment begins Nov. 18. How many students were hoping to register for classes that don’t exist?

These days, students can’t afford to invest in an education that doesn’t deliver. According to a Friday Northern Star article, the average federal loan debt for an NIU student after graduation is $20,921. That is a hefty price to pay for 71 percent of what was advertised; students who look at a course catalog before deciding to attend NIU will be able to take seven out of every 10 classes in which they are hypothetically interested.

That’s not to say that NIU doesn’t offer a quality education, or that there’s not more to NIU than the number of classes offered. But members of the Northern Star editorial board have been disappointed to never see journalism courses offered semester after semester – classes that are printed in the course catalog every year.

The catalog offers a disclaimer: “Although the university attempts to accommodate the course requests of students, course offerings may be limited by financial, space and staffing considerations or may otherwise be unavailable.”

Especially in the wake of the 2008 recession, it’s understandable NIU is experiencing financial difficulties.

The disclaimer continues: “Nothing in this catalog may be construed to promise or guarantee registration in any course or course of study.”

The catalog doesn’t have to be perfect; it doesn’t have to be a promise. But it should be better than a C average.