SF State students fight to meet with professors as class sizes grow

As budget cuts widen the chasm between student and faculty populations, some students may be struggling more than others for a little face time with their full-time instructors.

In 2010, some SF State disciplines had nearly 100 students per professor, according to various data from the SF State enrollment office and school budget binders.

Business majors were the least likely to snag a minute with their tenure and tenure-track counterparts, with hospitality management majors outnumbering their professors 91 to 1 during 2010, according to University enrollment and budget data. Students studying marketing and accounting followed closely behind with 71 and 68 students for every full-time professor that same year, respectively. These student to faculty ratios up to doubled the decade prior in 2001.

These ratios do not account for students who need those classes for minors, general education or prerequisites.

For pre-nursing major Katrina Han, even her biology and physiology prerequisites were a bit snug.

“I thought it was ridiculous. (Classes) had about over 100 (students) and only one professor, and so you never got the courage to speak to them,” Han said. Nursing majors in 2010 outnumbered their professors 71 to 1, three times as many students to professors in 2001.

Although last year’s college consolidation sought to preserve faculty, it remains to be seen if those efforts have actually achieved that goal. SF State’s marketing department, for example, holds 1,028 majors: 73 students for every tenure and tenure-track faculty member this semester.

Marketing professor Subodh Bhat said that a rising number of students with stagnant faculty numbers have caused classes to steadily grow in size.

“When I first started, the student-faculty ratio was about maybe 1/3 of what it is now. Some classes capped at 15, now there are as many as 45 students in my MBA classes,” Bhat said. “Obviously there is a deterioration in quality of education. I used to have a better relationships with students.”

Since a program or department’s size is measured by the amount of permanent faculty, departments with a lot of students might seem smaller than they are. Since the University has begun the process of merging smaller departments with larger ones, this could cause big departments to be merged with other big departments.

This is the case with the criminal justice program; it only has four tenure and tenure track faculty to support 700 majors, according to professor Jeffrey Snipes. Recently, criminal justice has become a program absorbed within a larger school.

“One problem is that the number of students isn’t taken into account. Small programs are defined in terms of tenure and tenure track faculty, not in terms of students,” Snipes said. Many criminal justice classes are taught by lecturers, to make up for the student to teacher ratio imbalance.

In contrast, many departments in the College of Arts and Humanities have more balanced student-to-faculty ratios. Similarly, the College of Ethnic Studies averaged a 5-to-1 major-to-professor ratio in 2010.

Despite such results, child development senior Ashley Singh noticed that while some professors are tenure and tenure-track, students might not benefit anyway, since not all are necessarily present every semester.

“A lot of my classes are taught by lecturers. It doesn’t really matter if there are enough professors or not,” Singh said.