As the first phase of spring 2024 registration kicks off, many students continue to feel the effects of systematic issues plaguing the registration process. These include, but are not limited to, accessibility and technology issues, diffuculties with permits due to the non-standardized nature of the process and a lack of information relating to coursework and professors. Tech’s Student Government Association (SGA) set working on registration as one of their current goals for this academic year.
Last year, the Registrar’s Office rolled out a new registration system that intended to streamline the process and make registration easier for students. It features new advancements such as “Plan Ahead,” which allows students to create hypothetical schedules and register them in a single click. However, the system is still working out some issues. When it debuted for last year’s spring registration, the site was down for over a week due to an issue with Tech’s Single Sign-On (SSO), which is a third party service. When this year’s registration opened on Monday morning, the site crashed but was up by that afternoon.
“In spite of their interface upgrades, the registration site continues to be slow as ever and it’s deeply frustrating to be unable to register for hours — especially after four years,” said Shawna Kalladanthyil, fourth-year ISyE.
Aanjan Sikal, fourth-year ISyE, is the Executive President of the Institute’s SGA, and he spoke with the Technique about how his administration is addressing some of the common issues relating to registration, specifically standardization for the process across different colleges and majors.
“SGA has been looking at making sure that registration is better for students and one of the things that we keep coming back to is its standardization,” said Sikal. “Sometimes students say that they’re seeing one thing in registration from one college and another thing in another place, so for a student taking a lot of classes, we just want to make sure that there are clear and consistent practices across the Institute. … [Also,] the Registrar’s Office has been super collaborative and very eager to listen to students about this,”
To bridge the gap of information between students and the courses they may register for, SGA has worked to increase student access to Course Instructor Opinion Survey (CIOS) data. CIOS surveys are Institute-standardized, surveys that students can complete at the end of their courses, and they provide data relating to the course and its instructor. Students can now access this data via the “CIOS Homepage” link at the bottom of critique.gatech.edu.
“Students were granted access to CIOS data during the 2019 academic year. There was like a Daily Digest article that was sent out then, but we really haven’t heard about it until this year. … Tech students are so good at analyzing so many different sources and pieces of data to [make a] decision, and I think that the CIOS access is one that … needs to be more utilized just so people can understand how their peers thought about these classes in terms of [metrics like] instructor effectiveness or number of hours they put into the course,” Sikal said.
Another common struggle for students under larger majors is their inability to register for the classes they need. Students’ time tickets are generally ordered by their classification, and as a result, students who have earned fewer credit hours may have less of a chance to register for the classes they need.
“All of my major classes have very high demand, and they end up filling up before I have a chance to register for them,” said Kenneth Yoshino, third-year CS. “I cannot get into the classes I am suggested to take under my four-year plan, and my schedule ends up unbalanced or incomplete [after Phase I registration]. Because of this, my graduation has a good chance of being delayed. This is especially hard on me because I’m out of state and don’t receive the HOPE Scholarship.”
Difficulties in registration especially affect students whose majors require heavy course loads. The Institute’s retention rate (the percentage of students who complete their degree at the Institute) is 98%, but according to U.S. News’ 2024 report, the four-year graduation rate is 56%.
Austin Westbrook is a second-year ChBE major whose bachelor’s program requires him to complete 132 credit hours.
“The four-year plans that our advisors lay out for us are kind of unattainable,” said Westbrook. “Due to the heavy course load of my major, I am required to take a lot of credit hours each semester, especially since I didn’t come in with many credits. My advisor will tell me to take less credit hours with the difficult classes, but I don’t have that luxury unless I concede to graduating in five years. In the later part of the degree, almost everything is a prereq, so there’s a set order you have to follow.”
Sikal believes that two factors that may be delaying students’ four-year graduation dates are schools’ generally heavy course loads and high involvement in extracurricular programs.
“Being the VP of Academics last year, something that I was exposed to is that Tech has a very low four-year graduation rate compared to our peers. When we were thinking about why, I think that Tech has this incredible culture of co-ops, internships and study abroad programs. These high impact programs, or HIPs, are so beneficial in educating and developing students, but sometimes they may delay graduation. In Georgia, a lot of in-state students … have such a great scholarship program, so it [allows them] to take their time in graduation and explore some of these high-impact practices that may delay graduation rates,” Sikal said.
He continued to discuss solutions to this issue, which include connecting students with Institute administration so they can adapt the course load to the needs of the student body.
“Another thing that we’ve been looking at is whether [Tech’s] majors and coursework allow for students to graduate in four years. Tech’s core curriculum is very complex, and so we just wanted to make sure that as we move [forward], Tech has been able to adapt its coursework. One of the biggest things that [prospective] parents are looking at before sending their kids here is the graduation rate. If they see that before[that] your graduation rate is low, then maybe it’ll cost them more money to send their students. We just want to make sure that if a student wants to graduate in four years, they’re able to, and that starts with making sure that the course complexity and the courses themselves are reevaluated, and a strategic plan is developed for students to be able to graduate for every single major in four years,” Sikal said.
Students face a multitude of factors that affect their registration, whether it’s website crashes, possible holds, class size, prerequisites, time conflicts, necessary certificates or four-year plans.
However, Tech offers some resources to mitigate this, like the new registration website’s online tools or the available CIOS data on the Course Critique website. As the system develops, SGA and the administration aim to keep the student body’s best interest in mind.