Registration Concerns Calming at Salem State University

By Sal Barbagallo
 Salem, Mass., March 27, 2017 — Blue lights strain her eyes. Jamie Saxonis, a junior Chemistry major at Salem State University (SSU), had dragged herself from her bed to fetch her laptop at 6:30 a.m. one day last fall. She calls up the university’s course registration site on her laptop and cellphone, directing both to the course registration page.

Seven a.m. comes and Saxon is is overwhelmed by anxiety. She clicks “enroll” on the computer and gets an error, the same happens on the phone. When the pages refresh, she tries again. Eventually her request goes through.

Students at SSU endured the same moment of panic for years until the university changed the class registration process for the fall 2016 semester. The process was recently redesigned to lessen the burden on students and server equipment, SSU Registrar Megan Miller explained.

“A lot of students were getting shut out of their registration times. Their time would come at 7 a.m. but the system was so overwhelmed that they couldn’t get in there. So every year, without fail, students were having a bad experience,” Miller said. “That was a real driver for us to change the system, which was a problem for quite a long time.”

Jamie Saxonis reviews her classes for the upcoming fall 2017 registration in Saugus, Mass. on March 24, 2017. Students must have their courses approved by an advisor before given the access code to register. Photo: Sal Barbagallo

The old process caused a system overload due to its layout. Students were separated into four categories depending on their credit counts. The four groups registered on four separate days, each at 7 a.m. Seniors, usually the largest class, according to Miller, registered first. Students with priority registration would register with seniors regardless of class ranking.

“There was this one time it took me forever to register. All the Student Navigator Center people told me was that I needed to keep trying and eventually it would work,” Nick Zuffulato, an alumni of SSU’s business program, said.

SSU’s new registration system staggers the load on the system, resulting in less students being shut out. Students still register on the day corresponding to their class. Students with “priority registration” now register at 7 a.m. on their class’s day. All other members of that class register at 3 p.m. on the same day, according to the SSU website.

Honors students and athletes are the two largest groups who receive priority registration. Some smaller groups and one-time recipients, like Mapworks survey raffle winners, also receive priority, Miller said. Student athletes only receive the benefit for the semester corresponding with their sport.

The registrar’s office works in tandem with the athletic department on scheduling extra curricular activities like practices and games. Priority registration for athletes is a long-standing privilege that helps ease the scheduling process for students who need to make their practices, according to Miller.

Honors program students are eligible for priority registration because of the additional classes they are required to take as part of their program, according to Miller. Honors classes have limited availability and often are offered as a single section. Priority registration exists to ease the scheduling process for students who need to shape their schedules around the limited honors classes.

The Navigator Center at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. on March 24, 2017 where students can get help with registering for their classes. Students can resolve account “holds” and meet with both student employees and administrative officials. Photo: Sal Barbagallo

Miller did not comment on why students whose majors require outside practice time, such as dance, drama or music, are not eligible for priority registration.

Miller and the Student Navigation Center plan to administer a survey to students following the Fall 2017 enrollment cycle, which begins with senior students on March 28, 2017. The survey will gather feedback from students on the new registration system to help determine where improvements can be made.

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