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Students Express Frustration With Lack of Economics Electives for Fall Semester

Sandro Segnatelli logged onto EagleApps during his 12 p.m. registration time on April 12 to find that none of the classes he needed to complete his economics major had seats left.

“As soon as I realized I was not able to register for a single elective I walked down to the economics department,” Segnatelli, MCAS ’24, said in a statement to The Heights. “I know how popular economics courses are at BC and I know they are definitely trying to expand the number of professors/courses they offer so I was very sympathetic but at the same time I knew it would be near-impossible to take 5 electives in the spring semester.”

Many economics majors are currently expressing frustration with the shortage of economics electives available for the upcoming fall semester. The economics department will do everything it can to help seniors who need specific economics courses to graduate on time, according to Christopher F. Baum, chair of Boston College’s economics department.

“If it’s their only major, and therefore they need to complete the major, we’ll give them priority and make sure that they get what they need and they’ll be able to, you know, head into Alumni Stadium next May, a year from now,” Baum said.

Baum said he is hopeful students who already completed a separate major and are pursuing economics as a double major can be accommodated, but the department can not guarantee it.

“I can’t guarantee that every one of them will be able to take the courses they want next year, but I certainly hope that we will have enough seats to accommodate them,” Baum said.

In an email sent on April 13, the first day of registration for rising juniors, the department acknowledged the shortage of electives available for the fall and notified students that the enrollment in most 2000- and 3000-level electives had been raised to classroom capacity.

“We all regret that these constraints, as well as classroom availability issues, continue to prevent our supply from meeting the huge demand for courses,” the email reads.

Baum said the main issue for course registration is not supply but demand.

“The real challenge here is that in the graduating class of 2023, there are 311 econ majors, and in the rising senior class, a number of whom have had some challenges getting the courses they’re looking for, there are 373,” he said.

Baum added that the Class of 2025 contained 368 econ majors, so it also experienced frustrations during course registration this year.

“The real issue is not do we have as many classes on the list or as many seats available in those classes?’” Baum said. “The real issue is that even if we had exactly the same number of classes and seats, there are more people trying to find a seat in one of those elective courses.”

Though Segnatelli eventually got off the waitlist for two of these elective courses, he was previously stressed about whether or not he would secure seats in the classes he needs to graduate.

“It is definitely putting a lot of stress on me, especially when I could not get into any classes originally,” Segnatelli said. “I thought to myself what is the point of even doing the fall semester if all I am going to be taking is random MCAS credit classes.”

Kate Lewis, another economics student and MCAS ’25, said by the time she could register for her fall classes, there were not any electives for her major left.

“Right now on my schedule … I have five classes, but I’m taking no major classes whatsoever,” Lewis said. “As of right now, obviously there’s add/drop, but yeah, I couldn’t get into any electives.”

Lewis’ registration time was at 4:15 p.m. on April 14—the day after the email was sent—and she said the extra seats the department had added were already completely filled before she could even pick her courses.

“Right after this email was sent, they were basically all full,” Lewis said. “I heard that even some [rising] seniors were saying they couldn’t get into any class … even on the second day of junior class registration.”

One of the expanded courses was Economics of Inequality, which Baum said is a popular elective that the department moved to a larger classroom with teaching assistants to accommodate 85 more students.

Nevertheless, the extra seats in this course filled rapidly as well.

“They lasted about as long as Taylor Swift tickets,” Baum said.

Andrew Caden, MCAS ’24, said he was unable to get his desired elective even as a rising junior with an early pick time. 

“I was going to take the Public Finance econ elective and basically that one was already filled up, and there weren’t many others that would fit in the schedule I had, so I had to change around three of my classes to be able to fit in a different econ elective,” Caden said. “It’s just not one I’m as interested in, and it’s kind of annoying.”

Donald Cox, head of undergraduate studies for economics, said the department is working to create a better plan and course load for the spring to ensure this does not happen again. 

“I really regret what happened this time around, and I mean, students were very understandably upset,” Cox said. “They should be. And what we’re doing is we’re doing everything we can to shore up the schedule in the spring, as well as continue to add classes for the fall if we can.”

The economics department is always hiring, but it is hard to meet the high demand for economics professors, Cox said.

“It’s hard to keep pace with the demand given that the economics market is so competitive,” Cox said. “I mean, it’s hard for both the administration and for the department. We are always hiring, always in hire mode … but it is, I mean, it’s really hard.”

Baum said two faculty members in the economics department are also leaving on sabbatical in the fall and another is taking family leave, adding to the challenges of finding new professors.

“Those things happen,” he said. “To some degree, they’re predictable, and to some degree they’re not in terms of whether we will have people available to teach the courses.”

Cox said it might be challenging for professors like him to change the structure of their classes to accommodate more students.

“One of the things that I would like to do is to get more graduate help, if possible, but those resources are also very scarce,” Cox said. “I’m really particular about how I run that class. And for now, my attitude is I don’t really want to change it.”

While Cox acknowledged the class registration situation was frustrating for students, he said everyone involved is working hard to find solutions.

“What happened this time around … is terrible, but the fundamentals are I think that the administration, the deans, the people who scheduled the seats and work on EagleApps and stuff like that, my colleagues in the econ department—they’re all really invested in just trying to do the best they can, you know?” Cox said. “We’re just going to continue to straighten out this problem.”

Segnatelli said despite the frustrating registration process, he understands that the economics department is doing its best to keep hiring more professors.

“I understand how difficult it may be to find quality economics professors that have experience and want to go into academia but there is definitely a huge need for them,” Segnatelli said. “I can tell they are trying desperately to hold onto older professors while recruiting younger ones and it is definitely possible that the supply just is not there.”

April 23, 2023