As Dead (good lord, Annie, get some sleep) Dean Dad has noted, the enrollment boom at community colleges is fairly widespread. Despite creating/enlarging two parking lots, and partnering with a church down the way to allow for overflow parking (with a shuttle bus running back and forth), parking is more abysmal than ever.
On the upside, I’m getting lots of walking in since I can walk from home while the weather stays summery.
On the downside, snow is in the forecast for tonight. Yes, snow. Ok flurries that won’t stick, but still….
So, yes, we are swamped with students, and this is affecting us all. The Advising Center, despite hiring 2 new non-faculty, full time advisers, stayed open 10 hours a day the week before classes began to accommodate the rush of new students. Faculty were asked to to do an extra day of advising that week, too. But since literally NO new tenure track faculty were hired for this year, that means all of these new students will be assigned to the existing full timers, and we must meet with each student one-on-one sometime between now and mid-November.
In our department alone we’ve hired so many new part time faculty members, that we’ve run out of mailbox space (not to mention the overcrowded part timer offices). Many of our new part timers are relatively new to teaching (we don’t live in a big enough city to draw on a limitless pool of experienced part timers), thus in addition to the dozens of new student advisees, we are also being asked to mentor several new part timers, each.
Those saints who are working for less than minimum wage, but that’s another story.
So, are there ANY benefits of this massive (I’ve heard 40% increase bandied about) surge of students? Ya betcha.
- The students are highly motivated: so far I’ve found the percentage of students still engaged after week 1 of the term is much higher than usual. Perhaps because they are still so thankful to have gotten into the class (I had wait lists of up to 20 students), or perhaps because they are truly inspired by the motivation of others around them. They are the usual diverse group (high school drop outs, honors students, veterans, returning adults, native born locals, and those who have lived and traveled widely), but they seem to be more motivated and engaged as a group than usual. It’s wonderfully energizing for me.
- The possibilities: when enrollment dropped at the turn of the century, we cut the variety of humanities courses we were offering (when only 4 students enroll in a course, it’s immediately put on the chopping block), and focused on offering more sections of composition. Now, we figure we can offer a course on, say, Milton (no offense meant) and we’d have 50 students registered in no time. The Curriculum Committee is already flooded with new course approval forms for next year.
So, as of the start of week 2, I’m mostly happy with the changes. Students who were on mostly wait lists did manage to get some classes (maybe not the ones they wanted, but still…) and we are a lively campus for more than the peak 4 hours a day now, with students everywhere, all the time, 7am to 9pm, hanging out on the quad, streaming into the tutoring center, the library and the cafeteria, and already popping in during office hours. I love it.
Now let’s hope the energy, on both sides of the prof desk (do any profs actually sit down at “their” desks in the classroom?) is sustainable.