UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

Low enrollment affects course availability

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The $4.98 million-dollar budget cut for 2016-2017 has prompted the university to adjust program availability for the future. UHCL will begin offering online and off-campus education programs to compensate for the deficit.

This fall, the university’s undergraduate enrollment increased from 5,650 to 5,790, and the graduate enrollment decreased from 3,253 to 2,887. Thus, UHCL’s enrollment of 8,903 declined to 8,677.

President William A. Staples said this shortfall will result in low enrollment programs being reduced in availability on campus or becoming online-only courses. Staples said he also plans to focus on ways to increase the interest in graduate programs by seeking assistance from an enrollment management consulting firm.

Ruffalo Noel Levitz will be assessing which of our existing graduate programs are likely to increase in enrollment, stay steady, or decline in enrollment,” Staples said. “The firm will also identify potential new graduate programs that UHCL might offer as well as programs that could be offered online and at off-campus locations such as our UHCL Pearland Campus.”

Staples said this extensive process will need every college dean’s involvement to ensure the university can construct the proper plan to help retain, as well as increase, the registration percentage.

“Each of our four colleges is being asked to review their low enrollment graduate programs in the context of where resources might be deployed to enhance these programs or to support any growing graduate programs within the college,” Staples said. “In addition, enrollment trends at the undergraduate level will be reviewed to see if any resources are to be reallocated to undergraduate degree programs due to our recent transition to a four-year university.”

Thus, the Women’s and Gender Studies program will be offered as a minor, instead of a major this upcoming spring 2017. Associate Professor of Literature Elizabeth Klett said students who are currently completing their bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies can finish their coursework, then courses will continue to be offered relentlessly.

“We intend to build up student interest in the program through a strong minor, and then eventually add the major back once we have enough students,” Klett said. “This is the more traditional path to building a major, which is available to us since we are now a four-year university.”

Klett said their introductory course will be available for students to fulfill their core requirements in Language, Philosophy and Culture.

“We’re hoping to get students interested early in their academic careers, and then get them to do a minor,” Klett said. “Once we have enough students minoring, we will re-propose the major. This is a long-term goal, but one that we believe is absolutely achievable.”

President of the Women’s Studies Student Association Kelly Meier said it was very disappointing to hear about the Women’s Studies program being demoted to a minor and believes the issue is more complicated than stated.

“It sends a signal that the university and students do not see feminism as an issue,” Meier said. “I am disappointed the major is not being offered right now, but I am hopeful the minor will serve us well until the culture will again turn and spark another wave of feminism.”

Other programs, such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education, experienced an increase in both undergraduate and graduate enrollment in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE). In fact, the enrollment in the College of Science and Engineering continues to increase every year and has been helping UHCL meet its financial needs.

Professor of Computer Science and Chair of Department of Computing Sciences Sadegh Davari said the Clear Lake and Pearland campus along with San Jacinto College received a combined five-year grant for $1.5 million dollars. The title of this grant was Bridges to STEM Career, and it has helped the department entice more local students to STEM programs at UHCL. October 2017 is when the grant becomes ineffective, so the program has been promoting activities to raise awareness for the College of Science and Engineering for the following school year.

“We have been having monthly Tech Fridays where students from area colleges are invited to participate on hands-on STEM related activities using cutting edge technologies,” Davari said. “Our Tech Fridays are very popular. The 40 available slots fill up soon after opening the registration. We also have yearly STEM Challenge where students from UHCL, area colleges and even students in high school can participate as teams. Winners of the challenge received scholarships to UHCL paid from the grant, Internship positions offered by local companies, and other prizes.”

Davari credits these events to the continuous increase of enrollment in the CSE. The STEM Challenge takes place each year around April. For more details about the past STEM challenges, refer to the project website at http://BSC.uhcl.edu. To receive information on STEM programs, contact [email protected]

The College of Science and Engineering received another large five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education jointly with colleagues in the UHCL College of Education. Davari said this grant would help UHCL continue hosting events such as STEM Challenges and Tech Fridays for the next five years, plus offer new activities.

For information on which courses are available through the new online program, visit the website at http://prtl.uhcl.edu/online. For a list of the off-campus education locations, visit the website at http://prtl.uhcl.edu/off-campus-education.