Chris Gray, Ph.D.
Founding President l Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania

If you ask anyone who’s worked with me during the course of my career as an administrator, I suspect that you’d hear a common theme emerging: I am, first and foremost, concerned with and dedicated to creating an environment in which students can maximize their potential for success. During the past two decades, students have changed significantly in their expectations and experiences, but I’ve held fast to this belief in the primacy of student success as Job # 1. I still do believe this is our first duty, and I can’t see that changing. 

Last year, I spoke here about how students have seemed to gravitate toward a just-in-time model when it comes to registering for their classes — not availing themselves of time-honored traditions such as priority registration and, instead, registering for classes closer and closer to the new semester start date.  We’re still seeing this approach, and I think that it’s just a hallmark of the way in which today’s students approach their scheduling — for education and otherwise — with more fluidity than did those from previous generations.  

To be clear, we here at EC3 will continue to support and assist these types of students. We recognize that flexibility and adaptability are crucial to the mission that we embody as a community college. So that’s not going away.  

At the same time, we do want to try to help students plan their schedules and register for classes earlier on whenever possible. Students following specific career and educational pathways have a roadmap of classes to follow, and this helps to minimize decision fatigue and that feeling of overwhelm that can confront new students when they see how many options are available. So, for many students, they just need to take the step of actually enrolling; the rest has been handled. 

We have begun Spring 2023 registration this week, and our advisors have taken to social media to encourage students to stop in, choose their classes, and register early. Apart from the obvious benefit of just knowing what’s coming, doing so will also ensure that courses offered are able to run. A course needs sufficient enrollment in order to “make,” and without such enrollment, we find that we have to cancel classes at times. That doesn’t serve students, and it causes needless frustration and delays. I’ve heard students express dismay at the cancellation of a class, lamenting that they had not yet registered for the class but planned to do so. In delaying the actual act of registration, students often inadvertently extend their own timeline to graduation.

What we are advocating for here at EC3 is not a return to the maddening in-person registration days that were part and parcel to my time as a student. No. Never again! What we hope is that students become invested in their progress and work actively to ensure their seats in their next group of classes as early as possible.  Our advisors stand ready to help, and we are hoping that word spreads about the benefits of early registration.  We want to eliminate the unintentional inconvenience that comes from class cancellations due to low enrollment because that slows students down.  

While we will continue to try to add sections when needed, we know that instructors can’t always be found at the last minute. An instructor who loses a class at EC3 due to low enrollment may very well pick up another class elsewhere. And if we later need to add a section, there’s no guarantee that said instructor will still be available to teach for us. We like to avoid that situation as well.

So, this fall, we are really trying to get the message out to students that early registration benefits them now and in the future.  I hope and think this can make a big difference for our students. So spread the word: Spring 2023 registration is underway!