inequity in registration

The Equity in Registration Task Force plans to implement a cohort model for first-year students starting next year.

In 2020, a study analyzing 10 years of data conducted by the biology department revealed racial inequity within the Gonzaga University registration process, in which students register in groups based on credits accumulated. 

According to Nancy Staub, a biology professor at GU and the researcher spearheading the analysis for the study, there is a significant inequity in registration timing between groups such as first-generation students, underrepresented minorities and more.

The current registration system operates by dividing students into multiple groups based on credits. For example, first-year students are divided into three groups, with the first group and first time slot allocated to students with higher credits.  

“We asked one question in our proposal, 'Is the registration practice that is used at Gonzaga discriminatory for these different groups?'" Staub said. "And the answer was yes." 

The biology department study and analysis revealed the inequities this poses, as students from lower-income families and communities are less likely to take or be offered Advanced Placement or Running Start classes. 

“As long as we have a registration system that is based on earned credit, it has inequities baked in it,” Staub said. “As long as there are some courses that will fill up earlier than others, then it matters to people that have fewer credits.” 

Through Staub’s analysis, she said she realized the most equitable method of registration is a cohort model, in which entire classes register at once. According to Staub, she proposed this data and her analysis to the academic council in February of 2021. Following the cohort model, students would register at the same time in cohorts (like by class, for example) rather than staggered times based on credits.  

“Along with the stance on promoting inclusivity, institutions need to do some reflection on their own practices,” Staub said. 

As a result of these findings, the Policy and Planning Committee of the Academic Council established the Equity in Registration Task Force in the fall of 2021. The task force is headed by Kathleen Jeffs, the associate provost for assessment, accreditation and programs. 

As a result of a recommendation by Provost Sacha Kopp in the fall 2022 semester, his first full semester at GU, the task force worked to implement measures to eliminate scarcity among key courses. According to Jeffs, this means that professors began to offer more sections of courses that are often in high-demand, eliminating the scarcity factor that resulted in several students being unable to acquire necessary credits. 

Based on the task force’s findings over the past few academic semesters, Jeffs and other members of the task force resolved to change the registration process for first-year students entering GU next fall in 2023. In the spring of 2024, the task force is trying to implement a cohort model for the first-year class of students, wherein the first-year students will collectively register at once rather than during staggered times based on credits. 

“From the student perspective, it has to be all on one day, otherwise it is just not fair,” Jeffs said. 

As of now, there won’t be any changes to the model of registration for the rising sophomore class, but the task force is continuing to address the issue of scarcity by ensuring that there are enough seats and sections in highly sought-after classes and seeking other ways to eliminate inequity factors. 

This year, Jeffs said, the task force is additionally looking to implement advising sessions over the summer for incoming first-year students, in which they can meet with their advisor to look over each student’s schedule before beginning attendance at GU. 

“This way, there is more equity and more student say in what happens in that first semester because they’ll be doing that with their academic advisor in the summer,” Jeffs said. 

Now, Jeffs said, the task force is looking forward to helping faculty and staff find a balance between receiving student inquiries and technical difficulties once the cohort model is implemented, but administrators are eager to act to make the necessary adjustments. 

“We are doing the best we can as we move through to mitigate some of the workload and technology problems, but the university is committed to overcoming those,” Jeffs said. 

If the cohort model works successfully, the task force plans to implement the model for all incoming classes of first-year students after the spring of 2024. Therefore, first-year students registering for the spring of 2025 semester would follow the cohort model, as with every incoming class following. With multiple classes of students registering, each class will register on different days and Jeffs says there will be a one-day buffer between the registration of first-year students, sophomore students and so on. 

“It gets incrementally fairer as students join the university, so the new student experience henceforth is one of registration equity, registration fairness,” Jeffs said. 

According to Jeffs, the task force is continuing to work diligently on fostering equity in registration in other areas as well, one of those areas being advising. Jeffs said that inequity can arise out of students having different advisors who may have various ways of helping students. The task force hopes to iron out these differences in advising experience by training advisors so that the student experience is more equal. 

For now, Staub says she is beyond thrilled that new measures are being implemented that reduce inequity among students at GU, as the new registration process will help even the playing field for students from marginalized communities.

“This is fantastic news,” Staub said. “This is addressing the issue head-on. That’s a huge step in the right direction.” 

Kaelyn New is a news editor. Follow her on Twitter: @kaelyn_new.

News Editor

Kaelyn New is a junior from Denver, Colorado and is in her first semester as a news editor after being a staff writer for the past two semesters.