The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Academic Advisers Scramble to Solve Registration Complaints

By Mark Jamison
Course registration for the spring semester opened Nov. 1, with students relating vastly differing experiences about the registration process. While the vast majority of students reported a positive experience, several education majors reported frustration, even anger.

“Registration was a nightmare,” said one education junior who asked not to be identified. “I could not register online for three courses I needed and it took an hour at the Advising Center because it was so crowded.”

“Student wait times have varied between less than 30 minutes to three hours during walk-in sessions,” said psychology senior Brandy Weitzel, who works at the Advising Center’s reception desk.

Complaints during the first week of the registration process varied from course non-availability to long wait times to speak to advisers. By most accounts education student registration problems stemmed from curriculum changes that adversely affected the online registration process.

Education students have been affected more than most other majors as many of the department course offerings require prerequisites and approximately 30 courses have undergone changes to titles, numbers, field-based requirements and/or prerequisites. Four new courses were also added to the Fall 2010 curriculum.

The new course requirements ensure students graduating from TAMU-SA will continue to meet Texas Education Agency standards to be considered highly qualified teachers.

“In addition to the state requirements, course changes were also based on requests received from San Antonio school districts during the Model for Success Initiative spearheaded by TAMU-SA President Dr. Maria Hernandez-Ferrier,” said Department of Curriculum and Kinesiology Chair Dr. Mishaleen Allen.

The initiative created a forum for open communication about institutional needs between local school superintendents, community college leaders and TAMU-SA officials. Acting on local school recommendations for teacher training is designed to provide graduates with a distinct advantage in competing for employment.

Academic Advising Director Angelica Barrera said it was those changes that caused confusion.

“Because the School of Education changed numerous course titles and numbers prior to the spring semester, the online registration program exhibited many problems distinguishing that the students trying to register had met the prerequisites, of the courses they were trying to register for,” said Barrera. “Those students affected were required to see an advisor to register for the courses.”

The resulting confusion caused the first few days of registration to become frustratingly hectic for both students and advisers.

“It’s frustrating for everyone involved,” Weitzel said.

Academic advisers worked closely with the Department of Education to correct registration discrepancies as students identified them. The graduate student adviser also assisted education students during peak periods.

“The Education Department anticipated issues with online registration and had been working with the advisers since early September. Comments showing which courses the current ones replaced were added to the Blue and Gold system,” Allen said.

“On the first day of registration it became clear more action was needed, so a course change sheet was distributed to assist students. Several instructors took the change sheets to class and explained them to students,” he added.

Barrera, anticipating long lines, worked ahead of schedule to maximize the number of students serviced.

“In preparation for registration, we decided to expand the number of walk-in sessions during the week before and two weeks into the registration period. Because using appointments we can only see 14 students a day versus 40 to 45 a day via walk-in sessions,” Barrera said. “Using the walk-in schedule allowed for nearly 600 students to be seen in the first week.”

Weitzel said that some of the blame for wait times does fall on students who wait until the last minute to try to see an adviser [during walk-in sessions].”

Most students failed to take advantage of the pre-registration sessions  which could have eased the process substantially.

Despite the initial confusion and issues with the online registration process, most problems were solved by the middle of the first week and the frustration dissipated.

“The online registration process was painless for the most part,” said English senior Meghan Crude. “The only issue I experienced was with an education class I needed, but my adviser allowed me to register in no time at all.”

Beyond the problems experienced by some education students, many others found the process simple and convenient. Crude’s experience appeared to be the norm for most non-education majors.

“Online registration was an easy process and I have no complaints with it,” said biology senior Michael Mares.

“In the near future, TAMU-SA will be using a priority registration period which should ease the process for everyone,” Allen said.

Marco Luna contributed to this report.

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