A total of 126 credit sections have been given the axe by the PCC Academic Affairs office this semester, rendering more than three thousand previously available seats unavailable to students.
Insufficient enrollment was the reason for the cancellation of 71 of these classes, which ran the gamut from Marine Biology to Jazz Dance to Television Production. In addition, nine classes—seven of which were mathematics classes—were nixed as the school was unable to find instructors for these classes.
Contrary to popular belief, budget cuts are not necessarily the driving force behind the cancellation of classes, which is a decision that the school officials say they do not take lightly. Instead, it is resource allocation that forces the school to scrap courses with low demand, according to Paul Jarrell, dean of instructional support.
With this give-and-take shift in resources, the school was able to create 66 new sections this semester for in-demand courses such as English, Political Science and Psychology. Out of the 66 new additions, 19 are Large Group Instruction classes that accommodate approximately a hundred students each. Many of these additional classes filled up in a matter of days and most, if not all, of these classes are late-start classes. A total of 3,023 new seats were added to replace the 3,284 potential seats that were removed.
The fate of a class is dependent upon its context, where factors such as if it’s offered on a regular basis and if there are many more sections that offer the same class affect the decision whether to keep or scrap it. There is a benchmark of a minimal enrollment rate of 60 percent, which is also taken into consideration.
When a class is on the brink of cancellation, the procedure is not as simple as scratching a timeslot off a schedule.
“The dean of the instructional area will talk to the instructor and they will discuss what will be the implications if they [were to] cancel the class,” Jarrell explained. Among topics that are typically discussed in this situation are alternatives for students and if there would be a better timing later in the term to offer the class again. Should the class be canceled, the school will encourage professors offering the same class to open seats to students who have been impacted by a cancellation.
“None of these was driven by a budget from the standpoint of, ‘we’re running out of money, we have to cancel those classes,’” Jarrell said. “It’s really about making the best use of the money we have to service as many students as we possibly can.”
Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Kathleen Scott concurred, adding that “we don’t cancel classes lightly. We look at it very carefully and we do try to cancel as early as we possibly can so students have the time to find something else.”
Part-time student Joseph Law’s first semester at PCC started on a rough note this term. His meticulously-planned schedule fell apart when he showed up to his basketball class on the first day of school only to learn that it had been canceled.
“The cancellation of the class caused a time gap [of two and a half hours] on Mondays and Wednesdays so it was an inconvenience,” Law said. He added that he would not attempt to take this class again.
After a class is cancelled, affected students are usually informed via email—sometimes via phone—and options and alternatives will be brought to their attention.
However, in Law’s case, he was not aware that his class had been canceled until the first day of class. Jarrell suggested that this could be due to the disruption of the school’s email server in early August, where students were unable to receive emails through their go.pasadena.edu accounts. While action was taken to contact affected students via phone, he admitted that there could have been some students that were missed out because the office could not ascertain whether the classes were canceled before or during the window of the email server’s downtime.
“It is important that students check their email and [check that] they have phone numbers that are accurate on file because we do make an effort to contact students to let them know,” Scott said.
PCC is seeing an increasing number of available seats in recent semesters as losses from state budget limits several years ago are being recovered. For example, on the first day of the fall 2015 term, there were a total of 2,804 more seats than on the first day of the fall 2014 term. Judging from the current trend, it is likely that the number of seats offered will continue to grow in the future.
“In an ideal world, we would be able to match the student’s demand down to the seat but it is very difficult to do,” Jarrell said. “Students’ lives are impacted by whether they can take a class this term or next term and that’s a hard one to judge so we try to be as responsive as we can during the time right around registration to see what classes fill rapidly.”
“It is our goal to try to create a schedule that best serves the needs of the students,” Scott added.