With registration for the summer semester on students’ minds, I can’t help but think about my last registration experience. It was a big struggle! And, the hard part wasn’t even the classes themselves, but rather the registration process to just get into these classes.
I remember the hours I spent sitting in AD 234A listening to, “You Spin Me Right Round” over and over again on Spotify just to try to get a moment to talk to an advisor, and it was even the one I personally requested.
When I finally got to sit down to pick my classes I was met with class conflicts and time conflicts galore.
Most of the classes I needed were at night or had strangely placed time slots. Some classes were not even available for that semester. It was as though registering had become some secret level in a video game I hadn’t unlocked.
And for a morning person like me, some of the afternoon classes weren’t even a possibility. It’s almost as if my degree was mocking me for even trying to take its classes.
So, with all these conflicts I had to go back and reschedule multiple times, just to get courses that fit or even were manageable for my schedule.
Every time I went back to look at that computer screen I felt like it was sucking the energy out of me, draining me of any hope for my academic career.
And now that the agony from that has passed, I look back and wonder about what made that process so difficult.
Was it my fault for not knowing the process because I was a freshman? Or was it Mercer’s problem for making a new Payment Plan for registration and expecting their students to just know better?
In investigating how this new payment system is tied into registration, I found a variety of issues.
First, there’s the notion that students themselves should be more informed and proactive to know what’s best for their academic goals, and that means getting questions answered by advisors.
I admit my registration battle was not fought alone. Like any story with a protagonist, I needed a strong ally. And oh how my ally carried me through the game of scheduling, reviving me over and over again till I finally beat the registration monster.
My ally took me to the office of the Student Success Coach for my area of study, Emanuel Medina.
When it comes to a Success Coach’s workload Medina says, “In the middle of the semester I see about 15 to 20 students daily, but on busier days there’s about 30 or more students”.
I was surprised when Medina said the new payment plan has actually made his work easier because of how it connects to waitlisting.
“Students sign up on waitlists, and when those slots fill they now don’t have that course available. Because of this new payment policy, it’s less of a toss-up of who gets into a class,” Medina says.
I was lucky enough to not have this problem of having been waitlisted if not the registration batted I fought would’ve been set to the extreme difficulty level.
Another side of the new registration process at Mercer wasn’t the availability, but the whole payment process.
I was lucky to have my financial aid ready to use for my payment plan, but other students were left in the dust.
Instead of paying your registration fees before a certain time, now you have to have the money upfront and readily available right from the get-go. And for a lot of people that is clearly a major set back if not an impossibility.
With students in a state of uncertainty and fear, most advisors tell them to go to their degree coordinators. And with hundreds of frantic students rushing to those coordinators, chaos is bound to ensue.
Specifically for my degree, my coordinator is Tina LaPlaca, a Professor and Coordinator of Advertising + Graphic Design and Illustration courses
LaPlaca says, “The new [payment] plan made it more difficult for my students to register and pay. Many students waited to the last minute to register and then were not able to get into the classes they needed.”
Students weren’t being lazy, they were tripped up on financial issues.
LaPlaca says she was inundated with emails and phone calls from panicked students.
“[Students] could not pay in order to register or they were waiting on their financial aid to come through,” she says.
Many students at Mercer rely on financial aid and scholarships to help pay for their fees and supplies. But how are students supposed to attend Mercer if they are not even able to register without cash upfront?
The most significant issue with this new payment plan and the registration process is that the overall plan wasn’t tested properly. Mercer should have taken into consideration that many students can’t come up with the money on the spot and that financial aid sometimes takes months to process.
I understand that a payment plan like this can give some students a sense of security in that the classes they are registering for are taken care of and secure. But students need more time to properly gather their payment.
If the system doesn’t change and if the game of registration is still as difficult as it was with past registration; just follow these wise words from Medina.
He says, “Know when registration starts.”
Because you can’t play the registration game if you don’t know when to press start.