The first year of California State University, Stanislaus’ new “two-pass” course registration has been fraught with problems – server crashes preventing students from registering, students missing sleep on the night before final exams, and troubles registering for enough classes to obtain financial aid chief among them.
But administrators promise to address the system’s shortcomings by next fall’s registration period.
“We are committed to evaluating every part of the process,” said university spokesman Dave Tonelli.
The new system sees students register for up to 10 units during a priority, first pass registration, where no wait listing is allowed. A second, open registration period allows students to register for up to 18 units.
Previously, students could register for up to 18 units during a single pass of registration.
The shift was intended to prevent students from “hoarding classes” by registering for more than they intended to take, according to Tonelli.
“A lot of students were over-registering for classes and not making decisions about what they were going to drop until the last possible minute, which held seats away from other students,” Tonelli said.
About half of CSU campuses use a two-pass registration system.
CSU Stanislaus experienced significant problems in the new system’s first run – most notably, a server crash when thousands of students rushed to register for classes when open enrollment began at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday morning.
The crash drove hundreds of students to comment on the CSU Stanislaus Facebook page in anger.
“Gee, could that system crash have been the result of 8,000+ students scrambling frantically to get classes at the same time on a system that simply can't handle that?” wrote Chris Daley. “...Nah...Clearly it was just a coincidence...”
According to Tonelli, one of the web servers crashed shortly after 1 a.m., redirecting traffic to other servers. Some students disagree, saying the site became unusable shortly after 12 midnight. The crash created a domino effect, and by 2:42 a.m. all servers had crashed.
The servers came back online at 5 a.m., when an automated process rebooted the computers. Tonelli noted that the private data center’s internal error notification protocols failed, resulting in the slow fix.
CSU Stanislaus Provost James Strong apologized via Facebook shortly after the servers were restored.
“I wish there was a simple method to make things right,” Strong wrote. “The failure occurred at the data center that serves all the CSU campuses, and manages registration for campuses much larger than ours. We will examine all the mitigating factors to improve your experience and restore your confidence.”
But by that point, students said the damage had been done. Some said they were unable to enroll in needed classes for graduation, as seats were filled by the few students who were able to access the website.
“Well some people might have to spend another semester because of their idiocy but its (sic) okay because they said they're sorry,” wrote Garrett Bordenave on the CSU Stanislaus Facebook page. “All better!!!”
Making matters worse for students, open registration began at 12:01 a.m. on May 17 – the night before final exams were set to begin. Some students stayed awake until 4 a.m. – or later – waiting for the servers to come back online.
Tonelli said the timing for open registration was consistent with past years, though open registration was admittedly less in-demand in the days of one-pass registration. He said the university would consider changing the time for open enrollment in future semesters.
Students on financial aid were also concerned with the 10-unit first pass, as students must be registered for 12 units to achieve full-time status and become eligible for financial aid.
“What about those who could not get their 12 units for financial aid?” asked student Kirstin Normark. “How is that fair to them? How can you fix that? Sorry doesn't cover a student having to find a way to pay tuition or leave college since they cannot afford an education anymore because of this "mistake". (sic) Think of the students not your paycheck.”
According to Tonelli, the decision to make the first pass only 10 units came from a faculty senate resolution, following “significant” discussion. Tonelli said he understands most students have been able to log in and register for their needed classes, following the server fix.
Tonelli said the administration now believes the first pass should be upped to 12 units, which would have addressed many of the issues students faced.
“There’s a process we go through to arrive at these decisions,” Tonelli said. “We’re going to reopen the process, but it’s not going to affect fall enrollment.”