Six Years to Graduate?

By Katelyn Stafford and Stephanie Provenzale

Carlow doesn’t have a medical school, but some majors might as well become doctors with the time it will take them to graduate. Graduation dates are ticking closer while student loan debt stacks higher and higher, but junior and senior students are scrambling to find courses to satisfy their major requirements. Business and Nursing majors have the lion’s share of courses every semester, while many other students are left asking the same question. Where are all the courses, and how can I make sure my required classes run?

For example, this upcoming spring semester has just fourteen Communication courses not counting internships. The number of Communication classes in the CAP accelerated course program for adult students? Two. Students unable to attend Communication classes during the day have a choice of either Advertising or Professional Presentations next year, echoing their experience this fall where they again only had two courses to decide between. With day courses limited as it is and CAP classes practically non-existent, the Communication major is seeming to be less of a “highly flexible curriculum” as it becomes more and more rigid as the semesters go by.

Investigating the absence of classes leads to the class registration process itself.  The Registrar’s office is responsible for finalizing this procedure, with Registrar Jason Krall describing the process as “complex” and diverse. The Registrar receives all the data necessary to output a course schedule for the semester. This involves ensuring dates match and courses have as few conflicts as possible. All this-behind-the scenes work results in user-friendly .pdf’s and emails that are sent out to students at the appropriate times. Think of the Registrar as the booming face of Oz, working to reach out to each and every student to ensure the message was delivered. And behind the curtain, one would find the head of each department.

It is up to department chairs to determine what courses will be offered each semester, and Communications Chair Dr. Linda Schifino had insight to offer. When asked exactly how courses are decided, Dr. Schifino explained, “Communication courses are offered on a rotation with required courses being offered either every year or every two years.  Electives usually run on a two-year rotation, and special topics courses run on an occasional basis to add variety and currency to the curriculum.” This rotation would explain the current drought of courses and hopefully rainfall is just on the horizon, as Dr. Schifino assures that next year will include even more courses.

While more courses are promised, the distribution of those courses is still up for questioning. Communication courses are limited in number, so it is vital to ensure that upper-level courses are offered at the same frequency that lower-level courses are offered. The Communications department is located within the School for Social Change, which is offering a new curriculum this year that promises to “bring together students from all of the school’s majors in courses that highlight our common social justice and advocacy themes and integrate our approaches.” This curriculum is not a restructuring but is being offered to incoming first years in order to provide a diverse course offering. The curriculum coincides with a noticeable influx of introductory courses, while upper-level courses have remained stagnated. This sharp contrast causes one to wonder just what type of student is in mind when determining courses.

Mr. Krall expressed that every student is top priority at Carlow and that there is special attention on making sure students are able to graduate on time by having classes readily made available to them. According to Katie McCurdy-Marks, the Assistant Registrar, in order for a class to run, there needs to be sixteen students enrolled in the course.  For some majors though, there are not sixteen juniors or seniors to take upper-level courses.  In that case, some classes do not run which jeopardizes some students’ graduate schedule.

Dr. Schifino had no doubt either that “course offerings present our students with a variety of learning opportunities to complete their degree in four years.” If a student feels at a loss when selecting from the available course offerings, working closely with an advisor could provide needed help, as an advisor “can see options and pathways that a student might not see,’’ Dr. Schifino explained.  Advisors will be a life-line if a student is underwhelmed by the recent course offerings. Lastly when all else fails, students can also partake in the greatest American accomplishment of recent years – outsourcing. Pittsburgh Filmmakers has courses every semester on different facets of media and are open to Carlow students as part of Carlow’s tuition except for lab fees. Cross registration is another option, enabling a student in good academic standing to register for one class a semester at the various other schools crammed into the Oakland neighborhood. With courses hiding better than Waldo, here’s to hoping those promised degrees don’t do the same.

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