UT's new registration system helps students graduate on time

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Starting this April, students’ course registration time will be based on their level of degree completion, rather than strictly their classification as a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. The new registration times will be based on the percent of their degree students have completed. Students within a year of graduation will register during the first two days — a time slot previously filled by all students with more than 90 hours undertaken. 

Although there is some uncertainty among students about how this change will affect their ability to grab a seat in required courses, this is a positive change in registration that will better suit students with few requirements left — especially if those classes have limited seats. True seniors who are checking off the last empty spots in their degree plans will have a better shot, although those considered seniors purely by credit hours — and not near graduation — will be pushed back to a later registration time. That might upset students who racked up college credit in high school and benefited under the old system, but those students’ degree progress will not be discounted by the change. If they are further along than their peers, they will still register before them. This change is actually a more specific version of the classification system used previously, in that now only students who are truly seniors will have preferential access to classes. Students in dual degrees or certificate programs will be placed according to the degree that is furthest along.

David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management, said the change would reduce the number of students registering during the first two days from 39 percent to 22.5 percent, meaning more students who consider themselves in their final year of studies would have the first chance to register. No senior should have to spend an extra semester on campus, paying for tuition or housing because they missed out on a single requirement for graduation — and unfortunately that happens far too often. 

Vice Provost and Registrar Shelby Stanfield said the degree audit system is updated often to prevent glitches and will be monitored to make sure the completion rates accurately reflect student progress. 

The percentage-based system will also eliminate other disadvantages unintentionally caused by the previous system.

“The last system made it so that it took your classification, alphabetized the last names of people with that classification, and attributed registration times that way,” said chemistry senior Katherine Teasdale. “So a sophomore with a senior classification and last name beginning with A would register ahead of seniors of last name Z who might really be about to graduate. This new system does away with the alphabet and only looks at your degree status. It’s much more fair, especially since my name is at the back of the alphabet.”

We hope the change doesn’t discourage the most ambitious of students on campus who have multiple degree plans — if they are pursuing both simultaneously, they may have to register later than students who are on a single degree plan and are further along. The students who may be impacted the most are those switching from one major to another and in essence starting over. Although any core credit would still count toward a degree program they would register later, the introductory courses to any degree are generally more open than upper-division classes seniors might need. We don’t want to see this new system discourage students from exploring new majors or forcing them to stick with one they are unhappy with, but registration time alone should never be a determining factor in such a decision.

Laude said the University is working to expand the change to notify students when they are within a year of graduation. With this feature, students would be able to confirm that they plan to graduate on time and their senior status would be ensured. This, Laude said, goes to show that the University is not making a random change in its registration policy but is instead working toward relieving a few of the many issues students encounter when selecting classes. This change obviously won’t perfect the registration process, but the improvement is worth supporting.