David Spight

Once admitted to UT, transfer students are absorbed into the University’s vast student body. But unlike other student groups, their graduation rates go unrecorded. 

Registration for transfer students typically occurs weeks after continuing students pick their classes for the semester, leaving fewer options for those students who register later.

Of the roughly 11,000 students admitted to UT for the fall of 2013, nearly 3,000 of them transferred to the University from another post-secondary institution, according to the UT Office of Information Management and Analysis. 

“The first semester can be challenging given that new transfer students often register after continuing students and may be bringing in lots of transfer credit,” said David Spight, assistant dean for advising at the School of Undergraduate Studies.

UT’s four-year graduation rate is unaffected by transfer students. Because the University only measures incoming freshmen, it has no measurement for the time it takes transfer students to graduate. 

“Most colleges and universities do not track time to graduation for transfer students,” Spight said.

Every transfer student is required to complete at least 60 hours at UT to receive any degree, which sometimes results in transfer students taking a number of electives instead of courses that meet a specific degree requirement, Spight said.

Journalism junior Jessica Brown said she has been forced to take numerous unnecessary electives during her time at UT.

“I have to take so many classes that I don’t need, just to get the hours,” Brown said. “The classes I do need fill up so fast, but if I don’t get them … I’ll just be here forever.”

Brown enrolled at Austin Community College in 2010 and is expecting to graduate from UT in 2015. Brown said she feels her extended college career can be traced back to her substandard transfer orientation experience.

“You’re treated differently as a transfer student,” Brown said. “I guess they assume that you know [which classes to take] because you’ve been to a college before. If I had known what to do, I might have been done much sooner.”

Niki Pham, a prospective transfer student from UT-Arlington hoping to major in nursing, said that she is already expecting a delayed graduation date because of later registration times.

“According to the nursing degree plan, I’ll already be behind in prerequisites when I get to UT,” she said. “And since I can’t register with other sophomores, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to catch up.”

But the setbacks are worth it, Pham said.

“It would be nice if they allowed transfers to register with continuing sophomores … but I’ll take it because I want to be [at UT] more than anything,” Pham said. 

Shelby Stanfield, vice provost and registrar, said the registration system is set up to manage the system load.

“When you have 52,000 students, they can’t all register at once,” he said.

The registration process works well for other transfer students, such as biology sophomore Francie Herriage-Wilson.

“I think — given our huge student population — the registration system works as well as it can,” Herriage-Wilson said. “I wasn’t able to get one class I need for my degree because it is in really high demand and fills up so quickly, but it won’t affect when I graduate.”

(Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Brace yourselves — the freshmen are coming.

University officials have spent the summer months preparing for what might be its largest incoming freshman class on record and what could be the second largest overall enrollment in UT history. By adding more sections, lecturers, advisors and First-Year Interest Group programs, or programs that place freshmen into small groups to support their academic performance, University officials said they are confident that the school is ready for the freshmen class.

Kedra Ishop, vice provost and director of admissions, said estimates for the incoming freshman class are currently around 8,000 students. This is an approximate 900-student increase from last year’s 7,149 students. Currently, the year 2002 holds the title for most first-time enrolled freshmen with 7,935 students enrolled as first-time freshmen and 8,419 students classified as freshmen. The University will not know if it broke its past records until the twelfth class day, when enrollment is officially counted.

“It’s too close to call,” Ishop said in an email, speculating whether this entering freshman class would be the University’s largest. “Our largest prior class was just over 7,900. So it could be.”

Although the University says it is ready for this incoming freshman class, the increased enrollment will place a strain on the University for years to come. Professor William Cunningham, who was president of the University from 1985 to 1992, faced similar issues because of enrollment growth in 1988 when enrollment reached an all-time high. Cunningham compared the problem to a bubble.

“If you have a problem in freshman courses this year, then next year you will have a problem in sophomore courses,” Cunningham said. “So you will have to put some more resources into sophomore courses, but UT officials know that. It’s not rocket science.”

David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management, said the University will have to add sections and redirect resources for years to come. This means for returning students and for all students going forward, officials will continue to add sections and lecturers to various colleges and schools as this freshman class moves through the University.

“The reason you don’t make decisions right now about where to put them is because students generally tend to migrate in lots of general directions,” Laude said.

Laude said he has been involved in conversations with the deans across all of the schools, particularly in the professional schools like business, engineering and communication, about the possibility of expanding.

“As that happens and as they take on those additional students, it will be required that we take the money we have available associated with the increased enrollment and create additional sections in the majors they end up populating,” Laude said.

Among the incoming freshmen, certain colleges and schools have been more heavily impacted. Marc Musick, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said he noticed the largest increases in the School of Undergraduate Studies, the College of Natural Sciences and the College of Fine Arts.

“I handled orientation for the University, so I can see the numbers we’re experiencing across all the colleges,” Musick said. He was appointed to oversee New Student Services and the large changes made in the orientation program by UT President William Powers Jr. in April.

The School of Undergraduate Studies faces more than a 50 percent increase in enrollment — from 900 students last year to approximately 1,400 this year. Initial numbers in the beginning of the summer indicated 1,574 students were planning on attending UGS in the fall, but since then almost 200 students have decided to not attend.

Incoming UGS interim dean Larry Abraham said when the school first heard about the number of incoming students, their initial concern was actually not about the number of classes offered but whether the school had enough advisors. Assistant UGS dean David Spight said the school has hired three new advisors, who will start the second week of August, a few weeks before students arrive.

Abraham said the school was also concerned about whether there would be enough seats in classes.

“There was a panic mode where students were saying there won’t be enough seats. We’ve never had this many students try to take freshman courses, whether they are signature courses or introduction to biology or whatever,” Abraham said. “The University has responded to that.”

In order to respond to both its increased enrollment and the entire school’s increased enrollment, UGS has added more than a total of 1,300 seats in signature courses to the 2012-2013 school year, bringing the total to 11,300. Signature courses, introduced in 2008, are each assigned a unique topic and aim to introduce the student to the University and its resources. The 1,300 additional seats includes the fall, spring and summer semesters. Patricia Micks, UGS senior program coordinator, said about 8,000 of those seats are the fall semester, when UGS hopes a majority of freshmen will take their signature course.

Micks said UGS did a combination of adding new signature courses and increasing the class size of some already-existing signature courses.

“We were very careful. If we’re going to bump any class sizes, we were sure to strategically select professors who really shine in these large classes,” Micks said.

UGS also increased the number of academic FIGs offered within the school from 15 to 24.

In order to pay for this, Abraham said the provost’s office gave UGS approximately $300,000.

Thanks to the funding provided by the Provost’s office, Abraham said UGS has dealt with advising and seating concerns. Spight said the school is now focusing to ensure students can make a smooth transition to their desired school after UGS.

“Our job is to help them find all the options and set them up for success, but in the end the student has to be successful in their courses and the programs have to be willing to say they will take those students,” Spight said. “That concern is going to be a little bit bigger for us this year simply because there are more students that we are worrying about.”

Spight said there has been increased collaboration between UGS and other colleges. For example, of the nine additional FIGs added to UGS, Spight said a few Natural-Sciences-oriented FIGS were added because a large number of students in UGS had selected the College of Natural Sciences as their first choice.

“We tried to make sure the FIGs that we added addressed those areas of interests,” Spight said. “The courses that were associated with those FIGs, whether it be the signature course topics or the other courses in the FIG clusters, we made sure they were along those lines in the sciences.”

In the College of Natural Sciences, freshman enrollment is expected to rise by about 15 percent. Last year, the college had about 1,835 students enroll, and this year it is expecting 2,152 students. Sacha Kopp, associate professor and natural sciences assistant dean, said the college has seen an increase in freshman enrollment in the past three years and this will be the largest class the college has ever seen.

The College of Natural Sciences has added sections and additional seats to prepare for this class, but Kopp said he could not say how many sections and seats were added since the college is still watching the enrollment numbers and is adjusting accordingly. Kopp said the college is not adding these classes just for students in that college.

And in the College of Fine Arts, which houses many of the courses required to fulfill the visual and performing arts undergraduate degree requirements, enrollment is expected to increase by 400 students, or 20 percent. The college has responded by adding several hundred seats to these courses to accommodate non-majors, said Andrew Dell-Antonio, College of Fine Arts associate dean.

Officials from other colleges are on board to prepare the University for this large incoming freshman class, even if their college is not seeing an enrollment increase. For example, Musick said COLA was adding additional sections.

“We serve students in other colleges as well,” Musick said. “Even though it’s not technically liberal arts students, they are UT students and they do need our classes.”

Senior associate dean for academic affairs Richard Flores said the University added 16 new sections in the College of Liberal Arts. The college is in the process of hiring a combination of nine additional lecturers and assistant instructors. The provost’s office provided the College of Liberal Arts with $306,000 in funding for this increase.

The first day of class is Aug. 29. The official enrollment count will be conducted Sept. 14.

Updated 11:24 a.m.: 1,300 seats, not 13,000 seats, were added to the number of signature courses.

University prepared to handle larger-than-predicted class.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Administrators across the University are prepared for issues that may arise from an increase in student enrollment this year of about 800 to 1,000 students.

The entering class of 2016 is expected to be between 8,000 and 8,500 students. The University expected 46 to 47 percent of students offered admissions to accept for fall 2012, but 51 percent are currently planning to attend.

Kedra Ishop, vice provost and director of admissions, said the admissions office was predicting 7,400 to 7,600 students to accept enrollment. In the last five years, freshmen fall admission numbers were approximately between 7500 and 7900. But historically, from 1998 to 2002, the freshman admission numbers were more than 8000 — the University admitted 8788 in 2000.

“A 4 to 5 percent increase this year was a tremendous jump,” Ishop said.

Ishop said the University admits too many students similar to the way airlines overbook passengers — because it knows a certain number of students will decline. This allows UT to use a small waitlist, unlike other universities that maintain large waitlists that are almost the size of an incoming class, Ishop said.

Ishop said there were changes in efforts during student recruitment to increase the yield rate and enroll more top prospects. Ishop said while this means the school admits a strong class, it also means historical trends are less reliable in predicting yield rates.

“We will adjust our offer rate to accommodate this phenomenon, as well as to accommodate the increased efforts on the part of the University to collectively engage in the recruitment of the class,” Ishop said. “In doing so, as the math would indicate, we’ll offer fewer [admissions].”

With this increase in enrollment, the School of Undergraduate Studies is expecting a 66 percent increase in students and the “undeclared” major may become the largest major on campus, according to David Spight, assistant dean for advising in the School of Undergraduate Studies.

Because of this, David Laude, the newly appointed senior vice provost of Enrollment and Graduation Management, said a lot of the focus for the incoming class will be assisting the school.

“That means making sure there is more advising in place, making sure there is more first year freshman programs for them, and we are already working on that,” Laude said.

Some of these measures are being handled at orientation, where students will spend four hours learning about their colleges instead of the two-and-a-half hours that was in place last year. But for the school year, Spight said the School of Undergraduate Studies increased its number of First-year Interest Groups from 15 to 23 to help handle the greater number of students. The school is also trying to add a Transfer Interest Group to provide similar services to transfer students.

Despite UGS receiving a bulk of the increase, Spight said this was something that is going to positively affect schools and colleges.

“This has created another great opportunity for the colleges and schools to work more collaboratively with each other for the benefit of all UT students,” Spight said. “Some of the best solutions come from the most challenging times.”

New Student Services, the division that runs orientation programs, is also dealing with the increase in student enrollment. The campus is currently hosting about 1,200 freshmen at its first orientation session. Kyle Clark, assistant director of New Student Services, said while the University has handled large orientations before, each orientation will be at maximum capacity.

“So far, this has not presented any challenges for us that were unforeseen,” Clark said.

While UGS and NSS have taken measures to deal with the incoming class, the Division of Housing and Food Services and UT’s Federal Work-Study program are not anticipating the class size to cause problems.

Laurie Mackey, director of DHFS, said housing has more requests than room availability every year, but they are always able to fill every housing request by the end of summer. UT does not require incoming freshmen to live on campus, something several Universities across the country mandate.

“Each time a student decides not to live on campus or not to attend UT, we are able to give [his or her] space to another student,” Mackey said. “We offer housing contracts weekly and right now incoming freshman are our first priority.”
Mackey also said the increase will not be a problem for dining centers.

“Due to the fact that we always open completely full and we are not increasing the number of beds, there will not be an overflow of residents in the dining centers,” Mackey said. “Should students who do not live on campus decide to eat in our dining centers, we may see additional traffic but nothing we cannot handle.”

And Linda Morgan, student employment supervisor for the work-study program, said students will still be able to find jobs on campus, through work-study or otherwise. Morgan said work-study is stressing this to students at orientation. Last semester, there were 7,000 undergraduate students who worked on campus and only 1,000 of them were hired through work-study.

“If students want to work then by golly, they’re going to work,” Morgan said.

Policy changes in the College of Liberal Arts will force students to spend more time meeting with advisers before making any changes to their majors or minors.

After March 30, students wishing to change degrees within the College of Liberal Arts will no longer have access to online major change forms and will be required to meet with advisers within the College to make those changes.

This change is specific to liberal arts and ensures that students have the best information before they make the decision, said associate dean for student affairs Marc Musick.

“The College of Liberal Arts advising leadership teams visited colleges around the United States to see how they worked with students and promoted graduation rates,” Musick said.

“Based on those visits, the thought was that adopting this system would be a help to students.”

The extra time with advisers should be a great benefit to students for multiple reasons, Musick said.

“It helps ensure that they have the best information possible, and it also provides advisers the opportunity to meet with students to discuss larger academic and career goals,” Musick said.

David Spight, assistant dean for advising in the School of Undergraduate Studies, said he believes this will help advisers make sure students are choosing the major that is best for them.

“While this creates more work for the student, in the end it compels students to check out their desired major more,” Spight said.

Before the change was implemented, undeclared students in the School of Undergraduate Studies simply had to go to the dean’s office of their desired major and fill out a form, but now students will be required to not only go to the college, but the actual department for that major and have their form signed off, Spight said.

“Ideally all of our students met with advisers in various colleges before making their decision, but this change helps enforce something our advisers originally wanted,” Spight said.

Many students in Undergraduate Studies end up transferring into the College of Liberal Arts because of the large number of degrees offered, so even though this change is only with one school, it’s a good step, Spight said.

Engineering junior Daniel Choi said this change would hold students more accountable for their degree progress.

As a student contemplating adding a liberal arts degree to his graduation plan, Choi said this change is something that will help him in the long run to be responsible during this process.

“Decisions like this are really important, but sometimes we don’t take the time to put in the necessary effort and this makes us do just that,” Choi said.

Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: Liberal Arts policy forces advisor aid