SFU’s enrolment process is unfair to student groups

A low number of seats in classes, lack of funding, and an unfair enrollment priority makes for an inefficient system

The enrolment process doesn’t support all students equally. PHOTO: Tim Gouw / Unsplash

By: Nancy La, Staff Writer

SFU’s enrolment process, especially the availability of classes and enrolment dates, has been a hot topic of debate and criticism for a while now. Various online forums and social media posts point to the flawed system and its repeated failure in helping students get the classes that they want or need, and with so many complaints of closed classes and late enrolment dates, this cannot be a coincidental one-off event.  

With enrolment dates playing a pivotal part in students’ success, the system must work efficiently and equitably, yet despite its importance in a student’s academic career, SFU’s enrolment system creates an environment of discontent among students. Problematic prioritization of student-athletes, poor logistical planning, and supposed lack of funding all play an important role in the creation of an inefficient and unfair enrolment experience.

An aspect that highlights the arbitrariness of the enrolment process is the priority varsity-athletes have over almost every other student group at SFU. While sports add school spirit and play a part in student life, it is unfair to consider them in higher regard, particularly when this privilege impacts the availability of classes for the rest of the student population. Giving student-athletes priority over any other students is unreasonable, but it is especially problematic that even students with disabilities are not deemed a higher priority. 

Students with disabilities face different challenges that varsity-athletes do not, and the priority system does not take that into account in its enrolment order. This action from the school prevents equal access to education for students who need extra consideration when it comes to course scheduling. Despite all the bells and whistles regarding SFU being an NCAA school, SFU is still an academic institution, and I do not see why sports should be placed above other student groups.

To make the enrolment process equitable, there needs to be a serious reassessment of the current priority level. Right now students with disabilities are being offered accessibility tools such as the Center for Accessible Learning (CAL) while being placed below student-athletes in terms of enrolment priority. SFU needs to ensure that it is paying attention to all students’ needs, not just the ones that play sports. 

Another side to this enrolment issue is the lack of seats in classes. As a third-year student myself, I have had my fair share of required classes fill up with no waitlists available. Had they been elective classes, I would be more understanding, but these are classes that SFU dictates I must take to graduate. If the administration already knows that students have to take these classes, then the low seat numbers do not make any sense. 

Having the student body take a course planning survey for the upcoming semester could be a solution to this demand-and-supply problem, while also helping SFU determine how to divert resources to classes that have high enrolment demands.  

While a survey can fix some aspects of the problem, there is a more serious underlying issue. The school’s inability to meet its students’ most basic educational demands is out of place with the annual tuition hikes that are supposed to be “significant investments” for both staff and students. While the increase in school revenue is achieved, class offerings continue to decrease in size and quantity, especially during summer semesters. Students have paid for their side of the bargain, but SFU remains absent in its deliverance.

SFU needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better way to ensure equitable enrolment for students. Elements of the issue such as the lack of student input on course offerings and an increase in the investment of teaching staff are important first steps in ensuring that SFU is a fair and efficient educational institution for all of its students. The school needs to take its head out of the sand and start acknowledging that the system it offers does not work from both the standpoint of efficiency and equity. Taking these suggestions into account is the first step of many towards a better educational experience for everyone.

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