Course enrollments stay constant

As the review of Yale College’s academic requirements enters its final stages, early administrative analysis suggests that changes to the curriculum in 2005 did not have major effects on course enrollments in different fields.

The 2005 overhaul of the curriculum, which added the writing and quantitative reasoning skills requirements and altered the rules about foreign language classes, seems not to have lead to major shifts in enrollment in any department, said John Goldin GRD ’77, director of the Office of Institutional Research. Goldin’s office is analyzing the data for the Committee on Yale College Education Progress Review, which is tasked with evaluating the impact of the 2005 changes.

“We looked at changes in enrollment by department,” Goldin said. “There are some changes to the distributions [since 2005], but we weren’t seeing that this could be attributed to the changes [made to academic requirements].”

Judith Hackman, associate dean of Yale College and coordinator of the review committee, said administrators did not make any predictions about whether the 2005 revisions to distributional requirements would alter the number of students in different departments, but they are following up on the results now.

The Committee will release all of its findings May 5, and most of its sub-committees will continue to meet next fall and may recommend new policies based on its report, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said.

Though the popularity of departments has shifted in recent years, Goldin said these trends began before the new requirements were put in place. Students have increasingly been taking more courses in the social sciences and fewer in the humanities, he said, adding that many other universities across the country are observing similar movements. The committee has also noticed a shift towards Asian languages, but Goldin said this too is a national trend.

But another shift in the language departments may actually be tied to the 2005 curricular changes: a greater number of students are taking advanced courses across a variety of language programs.

Hackman said some professors wondered whether the altered foreign language requirement was influencing how many language courses students take. Before the changes, students could place out of the language requirement with high scores on Advanced Placement tests from high school, or by taking one of Yale’s placement tests. Now, all students must take at least one semester of a foreign language.

Hackman attributed the higher number of students in advanced courses to the fact that incoming Yalies may no longer use their high school scores to completely avoid language classes. But she added that total enrollment in language courses has remained relatively constant.

Giuseppe Mazzotta, chair of the Italian department, said he is glad that the 2005 changes seem to have increased the number of students pursuing language study at a high level. It is unfortunate when students only take introductory language courses, he said, and he prefers that they continue to higher levels.

“That’s what we want them to do,” he said of students taking more advanced courses, adding that such courses give students “exposure to the culture and tradition of a country.”

While the committee is looking at the changes’ impact on specific areas of Yale College, such as language departments, it will also try to take a holistic view in its report, Miller said.

Miller said the committee has explored the course patterns of students who take the minimum number of requirements in certain subject or skills areas, adding that she is interested in determining how students navigate the curriculum.

Currently students must take courses in three skills areas — foreign language, quantitative reasoning and writing — and three subject areas — humanities, social sciences and sciences. Before 2005, courses were divided into four groups: humanities, languages and literature, social sciences and sciences.

Miller said that the analysis from the Office of Institutional Research, which provides a staff member for each sub-committee, has been integral to the report.

“It makes sure that we have real data and are not just responding to anecdotes,” she said.

The writing sub-committee, one of 13 working groups, presented its report on Thursday to the steering committee, which Hackman hopes will hear the final three presentations next week.

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