Overenrolled units

Guidelines for restriction of the numbers of majors when necessary

The LAS Committee on Courses and Curricula in 1986 reviewed at length if and under what circumstances it would be appropriate to establish restrictions on admission, transfer, or continuation in a major in the Sciences and Letters curriculum. In the course of that review, the committee met with a number of LAS executive officers and advisors. The result was a set of guidelines for reviewing proposals for establishing such restrictions; the LAS Executive Committee then discussed the guidelines. Because there was no specific viable departmental proposal at that time, the guidelines were not immediately proposed to the faculty for adoption.

In 1989-90, the LAS Courses and Curricula Committee reviewed specific proposals. It became apparent to the committee that establishment of such restrictions is only an interim, pragmatic solution, not an ideal one driven by permanent educational policy. The committee proposes these guidelines to the faculty for adoption. They are intended as a set of general guidelines on appropriate reasons for restrictions for units considering requesting enrollment restrictions. It is expected that the acceptable, pragmatic solution consistent with the educational philosophy of the department and the college will be different for each program. Thus, any proposal from a department to limit the number of majors must be reviewed by an appropriate college committee, using the guidelines as a general policy.


  1. It is anticipated that such requests will be instituted only if the educational quality of the major is compromised. Arbitrary restriction of the number of majors where there is no deleterious effect on the quality of the undergraduate program resulting from unrestricted numbers of majors is not acceptable. Further, overenrollment is the only appropriate reason currently foreseen to justify the institution of some restriction on which students may be admitted to (or continue in) a particular major. If the departmental problem or concern is not overenrollment, but rather the quality of students (or the quality of performance of students) in the program, then that problem presumably should be handled by a revision of program requirements or courses in the program. Degree requirements, course requirements, and grading standards are all appropriate ways of solving quality problems not involving overenrollment.

  2. Departments submitting a proposal to restrict the number of majors in their program(s) should demonstrate that indeed the educational quality of their major is being compromised by the current situation. In particular, a case should be presented that the situation is significantly worse for the unit than for LAS as a whole. Since the college currently does not have sufficient resources for all units to teach classes for majors in ideal settings (size, pedagogical approach, etc.), it is inappropriate for one unit to try to shift its teaching burden to other units in the college—unless its enrollment burden is disproportionately heavy. The assumption is made that most restrictions on specific majors in LAS would simply cause a shift in LAS enrollment to other majors in the college rather than to other colleges on campus or other universities. Departments should note the availability of information about relative instructional burden in the annual publication of the campus profile departmental summary.

  3. Appropriate ways of restricting numbers of majors include the institution of an examination or completion of a small set of courses designated by the unit with an appropriate grade-point average. In addition, the College Admissions Committee should consider requests for the institution of separate admission cells for overenrolled majors. Separate admission cells with higher standards, when such separate admission cells are combined with restrictions on transfer into the major for continuing students, indeed reasonably address a need to reduce enrollment.

  4. Ordinarily, grade-point average alone is not a sufficient means to reduce enrollment. Overenrollment is not addressed by such a single restriction on the major since use of an overall GPA for restriction of the major may lead to students taking inappropriate courses specifically to maintain a sufficiently high grade-point average. The college has indeed seen instances where grade-point restrictions alone for transfer into a major have had the effect of causing many students to delay important courses until they could get the required average to transfer into the major. Use of a GPA in certain major courses alone to restrict transfer into (or continuation in) the major may result in a situation where students are forced to transfer out of the major, and yet these same students may continue to take the overenrolled and compromised major courses, although officially registered as a student in another major. Again, this is not simply a theoretical possibility, but one that has been observed to occur in the college in cases where grade-point average restrictions have been in force.

    As a result, the institution of a grade-point average for transfer into (or continuation in) a major must be accompanied by appropriate enrollment restrictions on some course(s) required for the major. If the enrollment problem is so serious that it compromises the quality of instruction, then the means employed to reduce enrollment should, in fact, ensure reduction of enrollment. If students without the appropriate GPA can still take all of the overenrolled major courses, then the unit is not addressing the original problem. It should be noted that a department could limit certain courses to majors or those eligible to become majors (by means of priority scheduling for majors and an enforced prerequisite of "consent of department" for non-majors).

  5. It is critical that there be careful advising of students in restricted majors so students with little likelihood of completing the program will be informed early of alternatives. Therefore, in proposing restrictions on numbers of majors, departments should indicate what provisions have been made for adequate advising of students regarding their progress in the major, ability to complete the program successfully and alternative degree programs. Further, the advising and restrictions should be enforced at approximately junior year rather than in the senior year.

  6. Restrictions should be reconsidered annually, and a sunset clause or provision for automatic review once enrollment drops significantly should be included in a proposal. Students' choice of majors is often influenced by cyclical market demands rather then solely by their abilities and interests, and it is typical that enrollment problems are temporary and cyclical in nature. The length of the cycle may be short (two to three years) or long (20 years has historically been the case for engineering programs).

  7. Any recommendation for implementation of enrollment restrictions under provisions of this document shall require endorsement of the dean and the Executive Committee of the college.