A course is generally considered to be “fully enrolled” if it has 6 or more students on the roster; a course with 3, 4, or 5 students is “underenrolled.” (If there are only 1 or 2 students, then we view it as an independent study, rather than as a course.)

If there is a course that is underenrolled at the end of the priority registration period, the chair/director and an associate provost need to discuss how to proceed.  As a chair or director, you can help by proactively monitoring your enrollments throughout the registration period, and by thinking through alternatives for lightly enrolled courses early. (For example, sometimes it’s possible to head off an issue by canceling a destined-for-underenrollment 300-level course early in the priority registration window, and replacing it with a new 100-level course that’s made available even before first- and second-year students register. Or perhaps you’ll realize that canceling a fall course and replacing it with a winter section of the same or a different course is actually the best option for everyone.)

Absent extenuating circumstances, the instructor of an underenrolled course is given the choice between teaching that course for reduced teaching credit and canceling the course.  (The option of teaching for reduced credit is not normally available for a 1- or 2-student class.)  If there is a resulting “deficit” in teaching credit, the instructor typically makes it up by teaching an extra course either later in the same academic year or in the following academic year.

If there are extenuating circumstances related to a lightly enrolled course, the chair/director should discuss them with the associate provost.  For example, a truly uncancellable course (e.g., the only offering of a methods course specifically required for a major or minor, or the only available section of a language sequence course, etc.) will typically run with full teaching credit, even if it’s underenrolled.  Underenrolled courses taught by untenured faculty (including visiting, FOCA, and junior tenure-track instructors) are particularly sensitive, and require particular thoughtfulness and empathy; the conversation between the chair/director and associate provost will take into account the type of appointment held by the instructor in borderline enrollment cases involving those faculty members.

As always, chairs and directors are encouraged to consider likely enrollment patterns in planning their department or program’s offerings for the next academic year.