Beginning in the fall of 2019, Oklahoma Christian University administration will implement a guideline urging deans and other university officers to allow a course to survive only if 15 students are enrolled.
Chief Academic Officer Scott LaMascus said this guideline will not function as a policy or rule, but rather as additional guidance for enrollment management. According to LaMascus, the university hopes to improve retention, persistence and graduation rate among students through this new guideline.
“What we are trying to do is make sure that every experience is the optimum that we can provide,” LaMascus said. “A class below 10, in my view, is not an optimum learning opportunity. Fifteen is the number that many elite universities that are highly funded use.”
According to LaMascus, class schedules are planned out months before the semester begins, giving the dean and chair time to discover potential issues and figure out a plan. LaMascus said his advice to a student who has any anxiety about the new guideline is to have a good face-to-face conversation with their advisor.
“That’s where you’re going to get really comfortable with the fact that we’re going provide everything you need,” LaMascus said, “So don’t sit around and talk about it amongst yourselves. Talk with someone about it. And suddenly what seemed complex and impossible is very doable.”
Senior history major Alex Campbell said he thinks either administration will be forced to make exceptions every semester in his department under the new guidelines, or the history department will cease to exist. Last semester, the Senior Capstone class for history majors had only six students, Campbell said.
“There are a lot of people who take the history classes, but they’re all social studies ed majors,” Campbell said. “They don’t typically take the upper-level history classes, which is why I’m in classes with like five people in them.”
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Tina Winn said the university will continue to strive to maintain high-quality instruction, a variety of courses and timely graduation for every student.
“Our duty compels us to explore pathways to those goals that are both fiscally and academically responsible,” Winn said. “That’s why we have initiated a process of professional collaboration with department chairs and faculty uniquely positioned to offer specific points of analysis that I will use to represent the College of Liberal Arts in discussions as we all examine strategies and tactical procedures to achieve our common goals.”
LaMascus said this guideline contributes to the ongoing administrative process of enrollment management.
“What I want to do is keep the broadest possible array for programs for the most number of students,” LaMascus said. “If we let one program start getting really out of whack in terms of running small courses, it’s unsustainable.”
LaMascus said finances also play a role in introducing this guideline, as Oklahoma Christian is a tuition-dependent institution with an endowment and generous donors.
“Look at the price of Princeton or look at the price of Bennington,” LaMascus said.. “We are a modestly endowed school, and we want our students to be able to come here, find the degrees they need and be able to graduate on time. My bet is students will not recognize much, if not any, change in their programs.”
According to LaMascus, faculty members will work individually with a student to ensure they graduate on time with their degree. LaMascus said faculty are not panicked about the guideline because they know they can waive a course, substitute a course or even break a prerequisite if they need to help a student graduate.
“Once you get here, we’re committed to getting you your major,” LaMascus said. “That doesn’t mean that when you got here and you saw a course that was offered to juniors five years ago and you want that exact course that I’m committed to give you that course. It means we have to help you graduate and we have to help give you the degree.”
Talon News Editor Keaton Ross contributed to this report.