At this year’s summer orientation, around 400 freshmen chose to pursue a biology major, causing an unexpected influx of freshmen into the program. As orientation groups came and went, new students planning to major in biology struggled to land seats in their required introductory-level biology courses.
Now, professors and teaching assistants are seeing larger class sizes than normal. According to an introductory-level biology professor, the lecture section for BIO 114: Introduction to Organisms and Populations was originally set for 432 students but has been increased to 450 to cap out the class, adding additional students to discussion sections.
According to Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations, Binghamton University aims to enroll a certain number of students each year. For the class of 2022, enrollment numbers increased.
“For fall 2018, the enrollment objectives were finalized in November 2017 with a decision to increase the size of the freshman cohort by about 150 students while keeping the new transfer student cohort similar to fall 2017,” Yarosh wrote. “Initial enrollment data show that we are within 2 percent of these objectives.”
Yarosh wrote, since the University admits students by school or department rather than by specific majors, that each dean’s office uses previous data to plan courses for the following fall semester. However, the school must ultimately compensate for student interest as shown by course registration data.
“This means that there is often an adjustment period during the summer to account for actual course registration trends, and this year Harpur College worked with a number of departments to adjust course availability in response to student interest,” Yarosh wrote. “As of Friday morning seats are available in a number of the most popular freshman courses, including BIOL 113, 114 and 115.”
Additionally, there are still seats available in introductory-level courses such as ANTH 111: Intro to Anthropology; PSYC 111: General Psychology; SOC 100: Social Change: Intro Sociology; PLSC 117: Intro to World Politics; and GEOG 101: Intro to Geography.
Carol Miles, an associate professor of biology and an undergraduate co-director of the biological sciences department, wrote in an email that the University cannot easily create more lecture sections because that would necessitate more professors and teaching assistants — a costly prospect. Nevertheless, Miles wrote that all students who need to take an introductory-level biology course will able to do so without delaying graduation.
“I think we will be able to get everyone through Intro Biology who needs it, in a timely manner,” Miles wrote. “Some may have to wait a semester to get in, but it will not slow down their progression toward graduation. For our majors, there are not so many requirements that a person could not get through in four years, even if their Intro Biology course is delayed.”