OPINION: Priority Registration

Students register for classes based off their placement in priority registration (Niko Lababera/Lariat)

Students register for classes based off their placement in priority registration (Niko Lababera/Lariat)

With the semester coming to an end, many students may be starting to feel the pressure from final projects, essays and tests. However, for a lot of Saddleback students, this isn’t the only thing they have to worry about.

Right now is about the time that many Saddleback students are now able to register for the spring semester.  And depending on their registration date, that time can vary extensively. For the lucky few, this could mean being able to register as early as the first week of November. For those, who aren’t as fortunate, registration can be as late as mid-December.

The variance in Saddleback’s registration dates is attributed to what most colleges would call priority registration. Here at Saddleback College, priority registration is separated into four different levels. Level one being the broadest of the categories, has its students meet a certain list of criteria in order to sustain their advantage.

To be a level one student at the time of registration, a student must have completed less than 100 units, not have been on academic probation in the last two semesters and must have an academic goal. An academic goal includes having the goal to transfer, attain an associate’s degree, vocational degree or trying to prepare for a new career. Level two is exclusive to the Emeritus institute, while Level three and four is exclusive to those who have over 100 units, have been placed on academic or progress probation, haven’t complete matriculation or are high school students—high school students being last on this list.

And looking at the list, I would say that the order of registration on this list is relatively fair. It places students who are dedicated and have educational goals at the top and those who don’t necessarily have these immediate goals, at the bottom. However, it’s when you look at the specifics of this order that I think is a bit problematic.

The groups in level one and whom get the highest priority in registration include active military, veterans, foster youth, former foster youth, DSPS, EOPS and CalWorks students. The second include athletes, ambassadors, student government and students of the honors program. Then the freshman advantage students, family of military and veterans and staff or family of staff. Finally, at the end of the list, are returning students.

The biggest problem with this list is that returning students are placed at the bottom. It is true that returning students still technically have more priority over level two or level three students, but what ever happened  to seniority? Why is it that at a community college, upperclassmen finish last?

In 2013, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors approved changes meant to insure that each and every student has the opportunity to achieve their personal and educational goals. In an announcement video Sonia-Ortiz Mercado, Dean of matriculation and early assessment says that these changes are meant to reward students for making progress towards their goals.

“The new regulations are designed to ensure that classes are available for students seeking job training, an associate degree or transfer,” Mercado said. “And to reward students for making academic progress towards there goals.”

Although these changes sound great, it sets back students who still need to complete certain classes to transfer. Its in this program that created Freshman Advantage Program, which was set in place in the fall of 2014.  Honestly, I was a freshman during the start of this program. For me, this program has been very beneficial.

After this semester, I will have all of my general education courses out of the way and will be ready to transfer after only two years. That is the way it should be. And I think that is the ultimate goal of these new regulations. To ensure that students have a plan and are able to complete their goals in a timely matter.

The only problem with priority registration and freshman advantage, is that it sets current and returning students back. Especially students who still need math and english, classes that are vital to transfer or attain an associates degree. Students that have been at Saddleback for two years or more. Students that are trying to graduate or transfer, but can’t because they aren’t able to get a class they need.

Many of these students are required to take pre-required classes to even get into the classes that transfer. By the time these students are finally able to sign up for transferrable classes, they face the struggle of signing up for a class before it’s filled up.

The key in this battle is to make a plan. I don’t think priority registration is the ultimate problem. It does have its virtues and is necessary for students who really do need the advantage of signing up early.

Although I do think that it’s unfair that members of ASG, staff or family of staff and freshman get more of a priority, the difference in the dates is only slight. If students are able to keep good grades and follow a set plan, these problems can be avoided and make registration can become one less thing to worry about.