Financial bars hinder student registration

Laura Laughead

A UT student stares at her computer clock. It’s 9:29:55 am. She fidgets with a list of unique codes on a blank page. Five seconds later, she pastes a code only to receive a note in a bold, black font: “Financial bar: Registration is not available at this time.” Her schedule falls apart in less than 15 seconds.

This registration nightmare is common at UT and has made registration infamous as one of the most unpleasant, anxiety-inducing times of year. Our registration system needs an overhaul.

For fall 2017, UT admitted 8,238 full-time, first-time freshman. That’s an 18 percent increase since 2014, and students say they’re seeing the repercussions — especially during registration. Here’s the problem: those extra 1,500 to 2,000 students will be fighting with you for the last seat in your 9:30am core.

Catherine Harpold is a radio-television-film sophomore whose unfortunate registration experience for fall 2018 is detailed above. With the apparent disintegration of her class schedule during registration last April, Harpold worried her degree plan would be in limbo and she would be set back a semester or even a year.

“I didn’t get any of the classes that I needed,” Harpold said. “(The day after registration), I couldn’t register because I had to wait 24 hours for the bar to go away, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do because all my classes, including my major (classes), were gone.”

Harpold had a grant from Hurricane Harvey relief that interfered with her loans and suddenly manifested itself as a financial bar the morning of her registration.

“I think (the UT Administration) needs to do a better job alerting me if I do have a bar because (the night before) I checked and I didn’t,” Harpold said.

Harpold, however, ended up being one of the lucky ones. A new section opened up at the last minute. But many students, including myself, weren’t so lucky.

While our online registration system might work for a small college, UT’s massive population makes it ulcer-inducing. To fix it, UT should do more of what worked for Harpold: opening up more sections and adding more seats in prerequisites and cores.

At the same time, UT should also put a system in place to decongest classes by limiting the students in crowded schools who take more major classes a semester than needed or required.

“They’re taking spots away from people like me who can only take one of those classes right now,” Harpold said.

UT is crowded. But when the balance of your upcoming semester — or for some, your academic future — lies in the seconds it takes for you to paste number codes before your classmates, there is a problem.

Simultaneously, UT should create a better system to communicate financial bars and waitlist statuses to students in an effort to cut through the bureaucratic burnt orange tape surrounding registration.

Ultimately, the best way to douse the registration inferno would be to hire more faculty and create more classes. But the easiest solution is the one no one wants to discuss — admitting fewer students. Either way, let’s put an end to this scheduled sign-up suffering.

Laughead is a journalism and rhetoric and writing junior from Houston.