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Enrollment Task Force. Membership: Lyn Ragdale and Dan Carson, co-chairs Sidney Burrus, Marj Corcoran, Bart Sinclair, Matt Taylor, Ken Whitmire We met several times over the fall semester.

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Enrollment task force
Enrollment Task Force


Lyn Ragdale and Dan Carson, co-chairs

Sidney Burrus, Marj Corcoran, Bart Sinclair, Matt Taylor, Ken Whitmire

We met several times over the fall semester.

The deans, associate deans, and registrar gathered enrollment numbers which were sent to all members via email. We did not meet with faculty or instructors as a committee, but each of us individually met with or spoke with faculty, instructors, and department chairs in all the departments spelled out in the charge.

The report was sent to the Provost on Feb. 15

Marj Corcoran, Faculty Senate, Feb 23, 2011

Enrollment task force1
Enrollment task force


  • To develop in consultation with relevant department chairs, a pedagogically sound, resource-efficient plan for increasing teaching capacity of introductory lecture classes in math, chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, and economics.

  • To identify likely pressure points in upper level courses over the next three years

    Questions to consider:

  • How do we allocate teaching resources

  • How do we use labs in introductory courses

  • Should any of these options be considered

    Using technology Yes, but doesn't solve the problems

    Increasing the number of non-tenure-track faculty Yes

    Morning labs/afternoon lectures try it, but beware the domino effect

    Expanded summer session not helpful

    Limiting Rice students to a single major No


Enrollment overall has increased 30%, but the enrollment in some of these courses has increased much more than that. Of the 23 courses examined, average enrollment has increased 66%.

Question from the Senate Executive Committee: Have other courses decreased since these courses have increased so much?

Answer from Lyn: Maybe a decrease in some areas, but not a large effect.

Note that if the 30% increased enrollment is confined to half of the classes, the net effect on those classes is a 60% increase, and 0% increase in the others.

Average increases in introductory courses:

Engineering: 67% increase

Humanities: 58% increase

Science: 21% increase

Social science: 90% increase

Biochemistry/Ecology, Economics, and Psychology have also had large increases in the size of their upper level courses and in the number of majors.


Almost all of the introductory classes and (especially) labs are at capacity.

All departments except for Math have abandoned small or medium size introductory classes.

There are not enough classrooms, especially large lecture rooms.

There are not enough tenure-track faculty or teaching assistants to adequately staff the large courses.

Freshmen often have trouble getting into introductory courses.

Current schedules—lecture in the morning, labs in the afternoon or evening—make it difficult to add sections of the large lab/lecture classes. Beware of the domino effect.


Current Rice undergraduate labs facilities and equipment are “grossly uncompetitive with other high quality undergraduate programs.”

The staffing of the lab sections is marginal. Laboratory coordinators are overextended, and many sections are staffed by research assistants paid by research funds.

Enrollment increases coupled to budget cuts has left most lab courses with inadequate budgets to purchase needed equipment and supplies.

Some courses (phys125/126) have been led into new pedagogical techniques such as online homework. This pushes the cost of grading HW onto the students ($50/student) but seems to be effective.


There is a fairly long list of recommendations, all of which require additional resources, some of them substantial resources.

1. Additional sections of Econ211, Ling200, Math 101,102,211,212, Psyc 101,102 should be added. To support these additional courses, we recommend expansion of non-tenure track faculty such as Weiss, Evans, and VIGRE Instructors. These positions should be funded with permanent A1 funds.

2. Certain sections of introductory courses should be designated as “Freshmen only”, or slots for freshmen should be reserved in these courses.

3. Additional classroom space is needed, in particular one large 300-400 seat lecture hall.

4. As a trial, add a section of Phys101/102 in the afternoon with labs in the morning.

An additional Weiss Instructor, funded from A1 funds, should be hired to teach this class.

Resources should also be provided for discussion section leaders, staff, and supplies.

Recommendations cont d
Recommendations cont'd

5. Consider staffing the labs with a few BS or MS level full-time lab instructors rather than a large group of teaching or research assistants.

6. Provide adequate resources to upgrade and maintain the undergraduate labs.

These funds should be permanent A1 increases in department budgets.

7. The three departments that have seen significant increases in the upper level course enrollments and majors should getadditional A1 permanent faculty lines in addition to the non-tenure track faculty.

8. Class sizes should not be capped. Students should not be restricted to only one major.

These recommendations require significant commitment of resources from the University. Given that no additional resources were provided to departments to deal with increased enrollments, and then budgets were cut 10%, the current situation is not a surprise.

The full report should be distributed to the faculty soon.