Towson University might offer weekend classes

Idea is to ease crowding, create flexible schedules

January 10, 2000|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Robert Dyer took evening and summer classes and endured long lines to register for art classes he needed to graduate from Towson University this spring.

Still, he lacks a crucial computer course that he couldn't get into last spring. The class hasn't been offered since.

"I need that class to graduate," said Dyer, a 26-year-old senior and computer art major from Kenya. "It's a pain when you have to get into a class and it's already filled up. When I first came here, I couldn't get any of the classes I wanted.

"I really like this school, but it's been tough," Dyer said.

It's a problem Towson students encounter each year as they compete for limited space in courses that are required for graduation. Since the 1970s, enrollment at Towson has doubled, to more than 16,000 students.

To help ease the crunch, Towson will experiment this spring with a weekend program. If the test is successful, weekend classes could be offered to undergraduate and graduate students by fall 2001, which would keep the university open seven days a week, 12 months a year.

"It would make it easier for students to get into classes," said M. J. McMahon, associate provost at Towson. "It would allow students to work during the week and help us attract different faculty members on a part-time basis to the campus."

Colleges and universities started offering weekend classes more than two decades ago. The College of Notre Dame of Maryland was the first to do so in the Baltimore area. That was in the early 1970s.

"The trend in adult education and weekend classes began 25 years ago," said Timothy McDonough, director of public affairs for the American Council on Education in Washington. "But in the last 10 to 15 years, the focus is on how schools should really use their campus all year round.

"The trend is moving toward flexible class hours, meeting student needs and maximizing your resources."

Like other schools, Towson has offered evening classes for years. Occasionally, weekend classes were scheduled for master's programs, but never with the idea of extending the concept to undergraduates.

"As long as we're paying for the heating and lighting and all that, and with the space crunch that we are facing, it makes sense," said McMahon. "Offering weekend classes would make better use of our facilities."

Starting in the spring, Towson will offer a Friday evening and Saturday class for students in the occupational therapy master's program. The four-year program will be offered only Fridays, Saturdays -- and possibly Sundays -- in the future.

The program will try to attract people who work full time. McMahon said if the idea is well-received, Towson will consider adding a permanent weekend schedule for undergraduates and graduate students.

Janet Guenther, a 21-year-old senior art major, said that in her time at Towson, she never got "a schedule that I wanted to have, ever." At the same time, Guenther says she's not completely sold on the idea of weekend classes.

"I'm not sure I'd do it," said Guenther, who drives an hour and 20 minutes from Rockville to attend Towson. "I live too far away, but also, I feel that weekends are kind of for students. We should be able to enjoy them."

Towson officials say it will be a while before students have to make that choice.

"It sounds easy just to add weekend classes, but it's a cultural thing," McMahon said. "People aren't used to it. The university would also have to adapt. The health center would have to be open and so would the cafeteria and university store.

"We need to do a lot more talking about it," McMahon said. "It's still really early in the thinking stages."

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