Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Throwing out the baby with the bath water 

Anyone who's gone to college has a registration-day horror story, and we're no different. But one of our problems has been double holds, which permit a student to register for multiple sections of the same course.
"I have held classes for students almost every semester since I have had priority registration, which started my second year at SCSU," Vicki said. "The main reason why I have done this for students is because he or she wants a specific professor instead of some of the other choices. I have held classes for up to two weeks before."
Vicki is using a pseudonym, because if she gets busted for this there are penalties. The university says it wants to stop this, but says detection is very difficult -- our registrar says, "The only way we know for sure if a student is holding classes is if they come and tell us" -- so instead of dealing with this the administration is increasing the penalty for it. A rudimentary understanding of economics would teach that increasing the penalty on a crime with a detection rate of near zero is ineffective. The administration seems to know this, so they have asked MnSCU to revise the registration system to not permit students to register for two of the same course. Fine, but that applies not just to the current semester but across all semesters!
If there is any question as to why a student is taking a class over, or trying to register for the same class twice, the student will have to get permission from an adviser. This new system would keep track of all grades the student has received. If a student were to take a class over that they received a C in, they will also need permission because it is not necessary to take that class over.
But it is necessary, since in many programs with high demand for majors, GPA minima are used to allocate seats. Many principles of economics textbooks use the question of how to allocate seats in high-demand courses to motivate discussion. Why is it only in those classrooms that price is considered as an allocation device?