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Oversubscriptions: What’s Really Going On?

Line.jpgLet’s dig into the oversubscription problem a little more by looking at Dartmouth’s four most popular departments, the ones with the most majors. For the Class of 2009, the departments of Economics, Government, History, and Psychology and Brain Sciences included a total of approximately 585 full majors (and additional minors), i.e. over half the graduating class. (Note: I have not corrected this figure for the presence of double majors between these departments).

In reviewing the course offerings, I looked at BannerStudent and flagged the courses to be offered this fall in which the enrollment cap had been met (within one student) or exceeded. The results are more than telling (click on the department name below for the raw data):

2009 Majors: Approx. 200
Fall 2009 Courses Offered: 28
Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 18
Fall 2009 Courses Marked “CC”: 11
% of Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 64%

2009 Majors: Approx. 125
Fall 2009 Courses Offered: 30
Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 17
Fall 2009 Courses Marked “CC”: 9
% of Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 57%

2009 Majors: Approx. 100
Fall 2009 Courses Offered: 28
Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 7
Fall 2009 Courses Marked “CC”: 10
% of Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 25%

Psychology and Brain Sciences
2009 Majors: Approx. 160
Fall 2009 Courses Offered: 14
Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 4
Fall 2009 Courses Marked “CC”: 0
% of Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 29%

(Note: “CC” indicates “course closed”; it denotes a course that has been closed ab initio to allow faculty to choose the students who may take it.)

If you group these departments together, you can see that more than half of Dartmouth students will face daunting odds in getting into their major courses this fall:

All Four Departments
2009 Majors: Approx. 585
Fall 2009 Courses Offered: 100
Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 46
Fall 2009 Courses Marked “CC”: 30
% of Fall 2009 Courses Oversubscribed: 46%

46% !!! That’s a long way from the 3.6% of course requests that are unsatisfied according to AskDartmouth — a figure that ignores students who don’t even try to get into a course where they can see that they stand no chance of admission. And this 46% figure affects the majority of Dartmouth students in picking their major courses.

Of course, there are many departments that face no enrollment pressures at all, and that don’t even have limits on enrollments — a fact which should stand as an indictment of the Dean of Faculty’s allocation of resources over the past decade. High performing departments should have resources transferred to them, and low performers need to be stripped of their excess teachers — or they need to find a way to attract more students. In the private sector, this is called good management; there has been a dearth of it at Dartmouth over the last decade, and the above figures display this point amply.


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