By Marnee A. Gamboa and Monica N. Ladisla
The problem is evident in the Faculty of Arts and Letters where one Theology class—despite the standard room air-conditioning—is stuffed with as many as 59 students. The number is 14 more than the accepted ratio of 45 students per classroom.
Students paid at least P43,000 this semester.
Since 2005, freshmen admission has steadily increased by almost 21.6 percent, according to data from the Office of the Registrar. In 2006, UST accepted 10,271 first-year students. The figure climbed to 12,765 the following year, 13,132 the next, and 13,324 in 2009.
The increasing enrollment indicated a continued preference for UST as the university of choice among many Filipinos, especially when other schools in the University Belt are said to be experiencing an opposite trend.
Still, the population problem is real and it requires structural, if not, creative, solutions soon.
“We borrow rooms because we do not want the students to have classes in a large number,” said Jean Reintegrado, secretary of the College of Fine Arts and Design, noting that CFAD students hold lectures at the Faculty of Engineering on certain days.
“We want the students to have enough breathing space,” she said.
CFAD students also use two classrooms in the Domus Mariea Residences, a dormitory beside the Beato Angelico Building.
The colleges of Science, Rehabilitation Sciences, and the Faculty of Civil Law also have to deal with classroom shortage due to the increase in students.
Science Assistant Dean John Donnie Ramos said the college had difficulties with room assignments at the start of the academic year because the Biology program added another section, and Civil Law took some of the college’s classrooms.
“Because of these, we were left with no choice but to use our laboratories as lecture rooms,” he said.
Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina said he had to “borrow” classrooms because of bigger enrollment.
“From around 200 students, we were able to spring to 300 [this year]. Our college now has a very good number of 670 students from first year to fourth year,” he said.
Science and Civil Law are both housed in the Main Building, together with the Faculty of Pharmacy and administrative offices.
While classrooms are in short supply, the College of Rehabilitation Sciences (CRS) wants more laboratories. The CRS is using the Main Building’s laboratories, as those in St. Martin de Porres Building are already being used by the College of Nursing and Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.
“We would particularly want to request for more skills laboratories for we don’t have enough laboratories for zoology, chemistry and physics,” CRS College Secretary Donald Lipardo said.
The pressure actually comes from the growing number of applicants passing the entrance examination every year.
Faculty of Pharmacy Dean Priscilla Torres said her college saw an increase in the number of applicants this year to 5,000 from 3,000. However, because of the limited number of rooms and laboratories, Pharmacy can only have as much as eight sections.
“We had seven sections in the last two years in the Medical Technology and Pharmacy programs, but we have eight sections this year, and only one section for Biochemistry,” Torres said. “We can’t accept more even if we wanted to.”
The College of Commerce and Business Administration offers this advice to other colleges—control the population by setting the bar higher when the number of applicants jump.
Dean Ma. Socorro Calara described this as “control over admittance.”
“The number of applicants in our college has not changed conspicuously in the past, but there has been a large increase in the number of applicants this year,” Calara said. “[In order] to compensate for that (the increase in applicants), we set the bar higher for them (applicants) and slots are strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Calara, however, said she can accept more applicants this coming school year.
“We try to maintain 24 or less sections for freshmen with only 45 students each because that is just how much the building permits us to accommodate,” Calara said.
Commerce has 21 sections for Basic Education in Business and just two sections for Entrepreneurship in the first-year level.
Meanwhile, Science and CRS are experimenting by compressing classes to four days to free up classrooms. But students have to endure longer hours.
“To maximize the utilization of the available classrooms, we extended the class hours from 7 (a.m.) to 7 (p.m.),” the CRS’ Lipardo said. “However, we make sure that students have at least one day off a week, either on Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday.”
Lipardo said the college has also imposed higher cut-off in scores in IQ, Science, and English in the entrance exam for freshmen to maintain the ideal 45:1 ratio of students to classrooms.
But in the first year, CRS still maintains two sections for Occupational Therapy (OT), three sections for Physical Therapy (PT), and one section for Speech Therapy and Sports Science at up to 53 students each.
In the College of Architecture, Dean John Joseph Fernandez said the population has been consistent since 2007.
“Every year, almost 2,000 students apply for our college, but we only take in 480 to 550,” he said.
Fernandez said Architecture has also devised a system to manage the student population.
“We initiated a system three years ago which heightened the cut-off rate as they (students) go up the program, meaning freshmen were being filtered and those who stay need to sustain good grades,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Faculty of Engineering makes sure its facilities can accommodate enough students by evaluating regularly the number of freshmen to be admitted every year.
“A committee comes up with a study that shows how to maximize the resources of the building,” Dean Josefin de Alban said. “This school year, we had to have Monday to Saturday classes.”
“When the computer courses were first transferred here from the College of Science, they only had one section per level,” Alban said. “But the demand for computer courses rose and now we accept four to five sections in the first-year level.”
De Alban noted that while the college has been accepting 2,000 freshmen annually in the past five years, only 700 to 800 graduate.
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