The following is an excerpt from a letter I sent to students on the wait list for two undergraduate writing courses. The enrollment cap in each course is 25, but 25 extra students showed up on the first day of class looking for a seat.
I’m writing you because you signed a wait list on Tuesday for one of my sections of 214. I wish I had better news for you, but it looks as if the chances of being added to the class are very minimal….
Why can’t I over-enroll the course? It’s because doing so would affect the quality of the experience for everyone in the class. As an instructor, I have a finite amount of attention I can give to each student. The more students added to a course, the less of that attention I can give to each of them. In a writing course, in particular, it is crucial that students receive individualized instruction tailored to their specific needs. That’s hard to do even with the current enrollment caps, and nearly impossible if the course is over-enrolled.
Also, if teachers make it a habit to accept students above the current cap, some administrators may get the idea that they can raise the cap without any harm. Unfortunately, there are some at the university who care only about how many students can be crammed into a classroom, and not about the quality of education those students receive.
Your current predicament is a result of much larger forces. As you may know, the state economy has not fully recovered yet, and higher education in California has been severely underfunded in the past few years. Unfortunately, the voters of this state are often more interested in cutting taxes than providing a quality college experience for you. I would encourage you to write to your state representatives and the governor’s office to register your dissatisfaction with higher education funding in the state. You deserve better.
(For a useful discussion of some of these issues, see this post by a public policy professor at UC Berkeley.)
Kory Lawson Ching