Course Cancellations Down, Enrollment Up

May 15, 2018

Changes to how TCC creates its class schedule have resulted in fewer courses being cancelled, more courses being offered, and increased enrollment.

Between Spring 2017 and Spring 2018, the total number of classes offered increased by 2.3 percent, and the cancellation of classes rate decreased by 3.4 percent.

Scheduling classes is a complicated process for any institution of higher education. It involves no small number of moving parts, including campus populations, program locations, available qualified faculty, and predicting the number of students who will need a particular class in a particular semester. Having four campuses and several off-campus locations increases the number of complicating factors.

In recent years, TCC has made massive shifts in how it coordinates classes and sections between campuses. One of those changes involves fill rates.

A “fill rate” is the number of students enrolled versus the class maximum. Currently, the target fill rate at TCC is 80 percent.

“We want to ensure we’re at 80 percent of capacity for any class that has multiple sections,” says TCC Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management Eileen Kenney. “Doing so allows us to conduct better section management. We’re ensuring we’re offering the correct number of the right courses needed for the number of students predicted to enroll. As a result, we are cancelling fewer and fewer sections.”

Cancelled classes are disruptive. For the adjunct faculty member, it’s a loss of pay. For the student, it could mean a disruption of their college career from which they might not recover.

“When we cancel a class, it’s not guaranteed a student is going to reenroll in another class,” says Kenney. “When we reduce our cancellation rate, it gives more stability to our faculty and our students,” says Kenney. “Students don’t have to worry about adjusting their schedules at the last minute if a class gets cancelled, and faculty can better plan.”

The changes came about out of necessity. At the time the new processes were implemented, the College was facing substantial budget cuts. Each cancelled class had an economic impact on the College.

“We wanted to do everything we could to steward our existing resources,” says Cindy Hess, TCC senior vice president and chief academic officer. But more than that, the College wanted to do right by students, and remove barriers to their success.

“We looked at the scheduling process and asked what was right for students, and then we asked our department chairs and deans to schedule for student needs first, and faculty preferences second,” says Hess. “What our chairs and deans have accomplished has been really, really difficult, and while we haven’t ‘arrived’ at this, we are thrilled to see the early impact of a student-centered schedule.

“It’s not good for anyone to have to cancel a course. The goal is to have zero cancellations.”

Changes to TCC’s scheduling is an example of how the institution engages in systematic and integrated planning (HLC criterion 5.C).