Growing class sizes in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication could threaten its accreditation status if the trend isn’t reversed by 2014, when it will be reexamined.
Dulcie Straughan, interim dean of the journalism school, said budget cuts have caused 23 of the school’s 70 sections of basic skills courses to exceed the recommended enrollment limit.
J-School By the numbers:
23 Sections over capacity
3 Eliminated J-School sections
3.1 New J-School GPA requirement
15 Percent cut to J-School
The school’s accrediting agency, the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, recommends that class sizes only exceed 15 to 18 students in exceptional circumstances, Straughan said.
She said three sections were eliminated, while class size was increased to between 18 and 20 students in the 65 to 70 remaining course sections.
“We don’t have that many classes that are over the limit, but we certainly do not want them to go any higher,” Straughan said.
Chris Roush, the school’s senior associate dean, said the journalismschool will raise its minimum GPA requirement from 2.9 to 3.1 beginning next fall in an effort to limit the school’s growth and increase competitiveness.
Of the University’s professional schools, the journalism school has the lowest GPA requirement, Straughan said.
Straughan said she hopes the new grade standards will put the school’s average GPA in line with those of UNC’s other undergraduate professional schools. She added that, if implemented now, the GPA standard increase would only affect nine students in the school.
The school was dealt a 15 percent budget cut this year, reducing its ability to hire adjunct professors and replace retiring professors, Roush said.
“To get the same number of students through the school, you just have to cram more of them into all of your classes,” he said.
“It’s not like we can go out and find any additional money given the state budget right now to add course sections to lower our average class sizes.”
Jan Yopp, a professor in the journalism school, said she enrolled her public relations writing course by four seats more than the recommended limit in order to help students meet graduation requirements.
“My greatest worry comes with whether we can get students in prerequisite classes so that they can take higher level classes for graduation,” Yopp said.
Although class size is only one aspect evaluated during the accreditation process, Straughan said the school’s current path threatens its academic standing.
“If they see that consistently you have 20 students in skills classes semester after semester, it could raise a red flag,” Straughan said.
She said she hopes accrediting bodies will consider the impact of budget cuts when evaluating journalism programs statewide.
“In these hard budget times, an accrediting body would probably give a little leeway for a little bit of time because they understand that money is the issue, not that we are ignoring the rules,” Straughan said.
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