Class problems stem from inefficiency
Jacob Sakaguchi, a fourth-year senior, thought he could graduate by next spring.
But he quickly realized over winter break that he needs to wait an extra semester to complete his civil engineering degree.
One of his required classes is only offered in the fall, so he’ll have to take it in August. For Sakaguchi, this one setback means it will be December 2015 by the time he walks through the Thomas & Mack Center in his cap and gown.
Sakaguchi’s situation is not uncommon as UNLV struggles to provide students with the classes they need in order to graduate on time. Students are often forced to wait a semester or longer to take a class, or they have to choose between multiple required classes that are held at the same time slot.
The problem stems from two main factors: too many classes are held at the same time and there aren’t enough classrooms.
Most classes are only offered Mondays through Thursdays because, according to Associate Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Rainier Spencer, there’s a common misconception among faculty that a majority of students work on Fridays. As a result, there’s an overwhelming demand for classes during the fi rst four days of the week, but that means fewer classrooms to keep up with the high demand.
The Office of Academic Affairs said UNLV can’t afford that kind of campus practice because the university already does not have enough classroom space. With UNLV’s student population growing, the problem has only magnified.
“We don’t have enough classrooms and we don’t expect more anytime soon,” Spencer said. “It’s just managing it efficiently so we don’t run out of classroom space.”
Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Carl Reiber said that in order for students to get the classes they need more quickly, UNLV has to start offering more classes online and on Fridays.
A Nevada System of Higher Education report indicated that classrooms are mostly used on Mondays through Thursdays between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., peaking at a utilization rate of about 85 percent. Classrooms on Fridays, however, are used the most at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a utilization rate of 20 percent.
“We’re pretty much at the point where we have to offer Friday classes,” Reiber said.
For students, the short supply of classrooms has occasionally led to classes being cancelled due to low student demand.
“Sometimes you have to wait a whole year to take a certain class,” Sakaguchi said.
It has also led to lectures being held in any available classroom even if it means students having to walk from one side of campus to the other to take them.
“Last semester, I had a couple of business classes…in the [Science and Engineering Building] and that just made no sense to me because most of my classes were in BEH,” said Heather Gochioco, a junior majoring in accounting.
Reiber said he’s concerned that UNLV’s graduation rate is below 50 percent partly because students have to delay their graduation date just to take the classes they need — just like what happened to Sagakuchi. He said faculty can help prevent that from happening if departments speak to one another and try to offer more than two sections for their classes so students have more options.
Spencer said that if classroom usage on Fridays went up, the problem would be less severe.
“If Friday looked like Tuesday, maybe we wouldn’t have classroom shortage,” he said.
Reiber said asking the state for funding to construct more buildings may be a possibility, but UNLV won’t be in a position to negotiate until classes are held more often on Fridays and before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays.
Spencer was less optimistic.
“New buildings [and] new classroom space is just not something that is on the horizon,” he said. “We just have to be efficient with what we have.”
Solving classroom shortage, however, has come too late for Sakaguchi who has to spend more out of pocket.
“It’s more money,” he said. “So you have to pay.”