Class Size Policy Approved


After operating under informal guidelines on minimum class sizes over the past several years, Northern now has an official policy on record. The minimum enrollment is 20 for lower-division classes (below 300-level) and 10 for upper-division and graduate classes. Directed and independent studies, along with “single student enrollment” courses, are exempt.


“The state performance audit cited a number of universities for not having a policy, so we drafted one and moved it through the approval process,” said Fred Joyal (Academic Affairs). “It was pretty easy to accomplish because we had decided a while back that the minimum enrollment would be 20 for lower-division classes and 10 for upper-division and graduate classes, and we had been working with departments using these numbers. We just needed to formalize in writing what we’ve been doing in practice all this time. This isn’t a response to a problem; if anything, our challenge is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of classes getting larger. This is really a due diligence policy that shows we are paying attention to the efficiencies of resource use.”


There will continue to be isolated classes with fewer students. The policy requires that these be authorized by the appropriate college dean and ensures that a documentation trail exists in Academic Affairs to justify the exceptions.


“We also track the changes of lower-division courses,” Joyal added. “If a course falls below 20 students, we can monitor the history and see if it appears to be a temporary deviation or part of a downward trend. Then we’ll put it on a watch list and reassess it the next time it’s offered.”


According to the policy, the minimum enrollment must be reached at least one week prior to the start of the fall or winter semester. Department heads will notify deans of any courses that do not meet the requirements and must be canceled. Those not canceled must be authorized by the dean.


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Updated: March 20, 2006

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