Classes cancelled due to low enrollment

By Jami Peterson

NIU students are out of luck if they signed up for summer classes that did not meet minimum enrollment requirements.

About 10 percent of the summer courses offered in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or 17 courses have been chopped from the schedule. “We were charged (by the Provost’s office) to cancel as many classes as we could not justify offering,” said Joseph Grush, associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

This year’s new system of “deficit funding” was designed by the Provost’s office to place summer funds only in the classes with the greatest need. “More courses were authorized to be put on the books than we had the money to spend,” Grush said.

The college evaluated and submitted 200 courses, but was given money only for 170 courses. “We spent a great deal of time planning to get the right courses,” Grush said. “We had to prioritize all 200 courses.”

Colleges were given a June 4 deadline to determine what courses should be dropped from the eight-week session. The minimum enrollment requirement for three-hour lower division courses was set at 20 students, the four-hour lower division and all upper division courses requirement was set at 15 students and graduate courses were required to have at least eight students.

Grush said about 25 courses in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences contained only 70 percent of the minimum number of students needed. “We cancelled everything that wasn’t at least 70 percent,” he said.

“Our college was not adversely impacted by the cancellation,” he said. “The faculty did a good job in offering courses the students needed.”

Grush said the new system, which leaves the determination of the number of summer courses up to each college, allows NIU to get a “good look” at the classes offered during the summer and “make sure money is spent wisely.”

Although students who signed up for cancelled courses will not be able to take what they wanted this summer, Grush said the university can’t possibly make decisions based on how each individual student will be affected by the cancellations.

Don Davidson, assistant provost for resource planning, said the evaluation system was spurred by a restricted budget aimed at cuts from the last fiscal year. “We were faced with mechanical attention to bring some efficiency into the institution. We felt we should have the dollars track students and place the money where there is the greatest need.”

In the past, each college was allocated a certain amount of money to use for summer courses and not required to cancel classes because of lack of enrollment.

This year, however, colleges were given money in two pots—a budget amount guaranteed and an amount which had to be bid on, Davidson said. Colleges submitted a list of courses they needed to offer or “guaranteed courses” and a list of courses they would like to offer or “bid courses.”

Davidson said once enrollment limitations and budgets were set, it was up to each college to use “reasonable terms” to decide what courses to cancel. “There will be select courses that did not meet enrollment limitations, but still will be offered,” he said.

Out of the original 38 courses offered in the summer inner-session, 18 were cancelled. Davidson said the final statistics on the number of courses cancelled from the original session has not been determined yet.

He said there is no efficient way to deal with each individual who needs to take summer courses, but the new system allows the university to “get a better handle on student course demand.

“I am hopeful this system of critical evaluation of enrollment will continue,” he said.

“All the departments and colleges learned a great deal about what to offer and when. I think they did a good job.”