Severe overcrowding at the University of the District of Columbia is forcing students to attend classes in the cafeteria, the auditorium, in offices and, in at least one instance, in a former storage room.
Remedial English and math classes, intended for from 17 to 25 students, had from 80 to 90 students during the first week of classes. Some students have had to search for their classrooms because the room assignments changed each time the class met. There also has been a shortage of textbooks.
The problems were caused by the enrollment this year of 3,800 freshmen -- 1,000 more than the administrators expected.
More complications arose when a large percentage of these freshmen discovered they had to enroll in remedial math and English classes, said Ewaugh Fields, dean of the University College.
She said all students are required to take competency tests in math and English, to ensure their competence in these subjects because UDC has an open enrollment policy.
Fields said the school has taken several measures to alleviate the overcrowding problem, including hiring additional part-time teachers, splitting crowded classes among staff and using all available space for classrooms. By last week, many of the textbooks had arrived at the school bookstore, she said.
Fields explained that freshmen waited until the last minute to register, despite an opportunity for early registration. She said this situation will probably not happen again because freshmen now know there is a possibility they will be closed out of classes and will register early.
Overcrowding had not been a problem in the past, because the school's enrollment since 1975 had declined. But this fall, for the first time, enrollment increased by more than 10 percent, bringing the current enrollment of the school to more than 15,000 students.
This increase has affected primarily younger freshmen, according to school officials, because these younger students are not working during the day and are taking mostly morning classes.
"We just did not get our typical 28-year-old freshman student," said Donald Greene, director of the Center for Academic Advisors, who is in charge of all new UDC students. He said UDC in the past has attracted older, working students who usually register for evening classes.
He said that the late-registering freshmen found that morning classes were already filled because they had small enrollment limits. He said the limits were placed on class size in remedial math and English classes so that teachers could have better contact with students.
"Well, UDC President Lisle Carter looked at the situation and decided he would make it more convenient for students paying for their education by opening up all of the classes," Greene said. He said the cost of tuition and fees for a semester at UDC is $89 per student.
Part of the reason for the increase in student enrollment, according to UDC spokesman, John Britton, was increased awareness by students about the courses UDC offers.
"We advertised on radio and television and went to high schools to let students know what UDC was offering. This was the first time we used an organized and aggressive effort to attract students."
The result was clear. "Students were hanging out of the classes and in the hallways," said one teacher.
Some students are in classrooms that have leaky ceilings. Others are unable to hear their instructors over the noise of other classes being taught in the same area, as in a school cafeteria, which has no walls separating classes.
"This is an impossible teaching situation," admitted Greene. He said the university has hired part-time teachers and is using current faculty members to reduce the load on the remedial English and math classes. This has also meant that many of the faculty members must teach additional classes.
Hild Findley-Knier, a math teacher, complained that she was forced to search through her building to find classroom space because her class was assigned to the same room as another professor's.
"It seems like there is a 50 percent over-enrollment of our classes based on the shortage of textbooks," Knier explained.
Knier said some classes have been assigned on a daily basis, and students have been forced to track down classrooms and find their teachers. "I have also been told that we are short 1,000 math textbooks," she said.
Another teacher, who asked not to be identified, said "I have never seen it quite this crowded, but it is not that bad since they split up the classes. There are a number of teachers complaining about their class loads, but they were only teaching three classes before. They just did not have it that bad."
Knier complained that she has to teach classes from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and that she and other teachers have found that they can't take sick leave unless they can find a replacement to teach their classes.
Jeffrey Blakely, a 19-year-old UDC freshman majoring in computer science who takes a remedial math class, said last week that class size was not his chief problem. "My only problem is that I have not been able to get a math book for my classes. I am hoping I can get one today. It is really holding me up in class," he said.
Estrella Goodman, a 17-year-old freshman, said she found that several of her classes were closed during registration and that her remedial English class was crowded.
One UDC professor said she hoped that attrition of freshmen, which is usually high at UDC, would help improve the overcrowding situation by next semester.