Offering the right mix of courses (so that the entire span of the curriculum is covered, including required courses and attractive electives) is part of the core mission of a department chair as you work to ensure that you are providing appropriate resources for students to meet their degree requirements and successfully move through their majors. The nature of this task varies considerably and will depend on your department’s size, the number and types of degree programs offered, and the extent to which your department contributes to UMass Boston’s general education program.
In the middle of the summer, each chair receives a printout showing enrollment numbers for the courses being offered.
Problems are of two kinds: over-enrollment and under-enrollment. The Dean and Registrar monitor course enrollments, and will contact you if they notice red flags. You may be asked to cancel under-enrolled courses; if that occurs, make sure that you work with the faculty members affected to come up with acceptable alternatives. Sometimes, faculty members may have no choice but to teach a course with which they are not entirely comfortable, if an under-enrolled course that they had originally been assigned to teach is cancelled. Help them understand the situation, and as far as possible assure them that they will not have to face such disappointments on a regular basis.
Each faculty member with an over-enrolled course will receive a copy of the roster and wait list from the registrar.
As Chair, you have several options for managing over-enrollments, and should be in touch with the Dean or Registrar should you choose any of these:
- Ask the instructor whether s/he would be willing to let in one or more additional student. This option is feasible only if the designated classroom has sufficient space. Help the instructor balance the pros and cons of adding enrollments vs. maintaining the set cap (providing guidance here will be especially important in the case of junior faculty).
- If unmet demand is especially high, speak with the Dean about the possibility of opening another section of the course. Opening additional sections is done by petition to the Dean; after that conversation, the chair may arrange for the students to be transferred by Registrar into the new section.
- The Dean monitors under-enrollment.
- Any undergraduate course with fewer than 12 students enrolled within two weeks before the start of classes or any graduate course with fewer than 8 students enrolled at the same time will raise a red flag and is subject to cancellation by the Dean. Such cancellations are always considered on a case-by-case basis.
- If there is low enrollment, you might wish to advertise courses through email to University Advising or through campus flyers.
- For the future, in cases of low enrollment, you should reexamine your scheduling patterns. Are you offering an unrealistic number of electives or advanced courses, for example? Is there a need to re-conceptualize courses so that they will draw more students? Is there a need to recalibrate the balance between what faculty want to teach and where student demand lies? Is there a pattern of a particular faculty member chronically drawing low enrollments? If so, it may be time to consider professional development options.
- Is there a pattern of many courses in the department, taught by more than one faculty member, getting low enrollments? See the section on "The Department Curriculum" for some questions that could guide a wider departmental conversation.
- In the event a course is canceled, tenure-stream faculty should be assigned to teach another course. Such reassignment may set up a “bumping” situation, where tenure-system faculty bump out a scheduled NTT, who in turn may bump out another NTT who is further down on the priority list than he/she is.
- An important note concerning the timing of cancellations: the FSU contract specifies that, when no replacement course can be found, bumped out NTT faculty may be compensated up to 8% of their salary for any course cancelled after the first day of classes; there is no required compensation if a course is cancelled prior to the first day of classes.