For economics students, a long line outside class

by Kate Farley | 10/4/07 2:12am

Economics students have had to eavesdrop on their professor's lectures from hallways this term as their classrooms are filled to the capacity and beyond. Multiple economics classes rapidly reached capacity during registration, leaving dozens of students attending classes in which they were not officially enrolled in hopes of snagging a coveted spot on the wait-list.

"I literally had people spilling out into the hall," economics professor Eric Edmonds said of his developmental economics course. "Almost 100 people showed up."

As Econ 24 is supposed to be capped at 35 students, Edmonds added two more sections, a move that required emergency approval from the Dean of the Faculty's office. Though Dartmouth professors generally teach four classes a year, Edmonds is currently scheduled for six.

Edmonds' oversubscribed class is not an anomaly in the College's economics department this fall. According to the registrar's timetable of class meetings, 10 sections are currently over the limit.

"Econ continues to be incredibly popular," Patricia Anderson, chair of the department, said, adding that the department was having trouble keeping up with the growing demand.

There are currently 209 students with economics major cards on file, a number that has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. Economics is the most popular major at the College.

Anderson said that she believed this was not a trend limited to Dartmouth.

"Economics nationwide continues to boom," she said.

The economics faculty does not want to make serious compromises in their teaching philosophy just to meet demand, Anderson explained.

"We could just offer hundred-person sections," she said, but added that she and the other faculty prioritize students having close interaction with professors in small classrooms.

The economics department does not employ teaching assistants and all classes are taught by professors.

The department has been able to add 15 sections in the last two years to maintain small class sizes and meet demand, Anderson said. The cap on Economics 20, a required class for the major, was raised this fall to accommodate seniors who must take the class to graduate this spring.

Despite these efforts, many students were left scrambling to change their schedules.

Edmonds said that he is concerned that students may perceive that the economics faculty does not fully appreciate the situation.

"We really do view this as a serious problem," he said. "We want to teach, and it's frustrating for us to not be able to meet the demand."

Anderson had advice for students worried about getting into classes.

"First, register on time," she said, stating that most students who had problems were those who had attempted to change their schedules after the registration period. "Second, plan to be flexible."

Many popular classes are offered multiple times per year, Anderson said.

Edmonds echoed Anderson's advice.

"There has been a crunch lately," he said. "But in the eight years that I've been here, I haven't seen it get to the point where someone couldn't graduate because they were unable to get into a class that they needed. With some patience and persistence, you will get in."

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!