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Guidelines for Low Enrollment Courses

Guiding Principles

  • The primary goal of these guidelines is to ensure SPS courses have robust enrollment and by extension, reduce the number of low enrollment courses across SPS. This is both an issue of workload equity and budget realities.
  • These guidelines operate based on a flexible approach so that the full context of courses, curriculums, student enrollment, and faculty workloads are taken into consideration. The key here is to find flexible solutions that encourage strong enrollment while balancing faculty workload equity, student success, and budget realities. In this spirit, how we deal with low enrollment courses will not be one-size-fits-all and faculty will be treated as partners in developing plans.
  • These policies are shaped by an understanding that in select cases low enrollment courses serve students who need to fulfill specific degree requirements such as taking required courses during a specific semester. In other cases, low enrollment courses can result from program building and curricular innovation, for instance, when courses are offered for the first time. These issues will be taken into consideration when making choices about how to deal with low enrollment courses. In short, these guidelines should not be used to discourage student movement through their degree programs or curricular innovation.
  • These guidelines only apply to fall and spring semesters; summer semesters use a different set of guidelines established by Extended Studies.

What constitutes a low enrollment course in SPS?

Minimum enrollment for courses:

  • Lower-division undergraduate courses (100- or 200-level)     20
  • Upper-division undergraduate courses (300- or 400-level)     12
  • Masters-level courses (500-level or 692)                                   7
  • Doctoral-level courses (600-level)                                             4

When is this determined?

  • Courses will be initially flagged as low enrollment within one calendar month after the enrollment window opens. At this point, faculty and PLs should consult with each other about options. The final determination for a low enrollment course will be made within one calendar month before courses are set to begin.

What are the options?

  • Cancel the course. Faculty will be reassigned to another course.
    • Before canceling courses, faculty and PLs should consider alternative options for students and whether the course is essential for progress towards degree completion.
  • Develop an alternative teaching plan.
      • Alternative teaching plans will be negotiated with the FD and appropriate PLs, based on what best serves student and program needs.
      • Plans will focus on creating workload equity and should focus on teaching activities. Ideally, plans will produce sufficient student credit hour production (e.g., directed independent studies) to offset the low enrollment.
      • Plans should also take into consideration other aspects of faculty workloads as it relates to their teaching responsibilities. Issues to consider include: whether the faculty member is also teaching high enrollment courses (including availability of support, such as graders); teaching activities that do not easily fit into workload (e.g., VIPs, workshops); development of new courses, particularly those that support program building or are innovative additions to curriculums; course coordinators for courses with multiple sections; and, experiential learning components or other high impact practices.
      • Plans should not stretch beyond one academic year.

Strategies for preventing and dealing with low enrollment courses:

  • Prevent low enrollment courses.
    • Don’t schedule courses that are unpopular or at unpopular times.
    • Schedule for days/times and formats that are most appealing to students.
    • Consider mode of instruction (e.g., online, remote, face-to-face).
    • SPS has data to inform these decisions.
  • Recruit. Reach out to students early and create a personal connection.
    • Engage students in your program and encourage early enrollment.
    • SPS leadership will work to encourage students to register early, but faculty and PLs should also develop efforts to target specific courses as needed.
  • Develop program specific marketing strategies/rules, such as template emails, course advertisements, or social media campaigns highlighting specific courses.
  • Cross-list with other programs, both within SPS and across campus.
  • For courses with multiple sections, consider consolidating courses into fewer sections.
  • For chronically under-enrolled courses, consider curriculum changes.