The College has seen an increase in the number of students dropped from tutorials for the past three years. According to Professor Stephen Fix, Robert G Scott ’68 professor of English and coordinator of the College’s tutorial program, “the number this year might be the highest ever.” Before 2010, around 180 students who pre-registered for tutorials lost their spots, but the number is now closer to 300.
The reason the number of students dropped from tutorials is so high is not entirely clear. “There is no clear explanation [for the sudden uptick], except that students want to take more tutorials,” Fix said. He explained that more students being dropped is really “an index of [the increased] popularity of tutorials.”
However, what is clear is that the climbing number of dropped students is not driven by a decrease in the number of available tutorials. This year the College has offered 69 tutorials, second only to the 71 offerings in 2008-09. It is possible that the sheer increase in the number available courses has led to more students dropped from their choices; the more tutorials, the higher the total number of students who are dropped.
Over-enrollment is most often the cause for a professor to drop a student from a tutorial. However, students may also be dropped because they have not completed prerequisite courses. The professor may also deem a student unprepared for the tutorial based on grade level, or give priority to students majoring in the department.
“The number itself is not an indicator that a student did not get to take any tutorial,” Fix said. Several tutorials remain open at the end of each registration period. There are usually only a few tutorials each semester that are “dramatically over-enrolled,” and these contribute most of the dropped students, according to Fix. Often, students pursue tutorials taught by particularly beloved professors. As many as 40 students may enroll in one of those extremely popular tutorials, which means one tutorial can contribute about 30 dropped students to the statistic.
However, Professor Fix stated, “it is a problem” that so many students are denied their first choice. Students can “absolutely” take at least one tutorial within their time at the College, but Fix acknowledges that they may not get their favorite. Fix says, “I know it is frustrating” for students to lose their first choice, and recognizes that they might not be interested in just any tutorial: “It’s a big commitment,” he said, and students must want to put in the time and effort for a tutorial’s particular subject.
Unfortunately, Fix sees little opportunity to reduce this trend. Increasing the number of tutorials by more than four or five is not feasible, considering the cost. Fix advises students dropped from tutorials to “try again” and to visit the tutorial professor. Fix also recommends students use the online course catalog to choose the “tutorial” category among the list of majors. There they can view tutorials in an aggregate and easily see which remain open.