Enrollment dwindles for final January interim


Juliana Knot

Students in Calvin’s German program enjoy a trip abroad. The German major was among those cut by university officials.

Calvin will offer nearly 80 fewer interim courses this year, according to Registrar Tom Steenwyk.

Enrollment could drop to fewer than 1,800 students taking interim courses in January if upperclassmen registration doesn’t increase, Steenwyk told Chimes. That’s compared to January 2020’s enrollment of 3,237 students, which includes P.E. courses and independent studies.

The university offered approximately 170 interim courses last January. 2021 interim currently offers  94 courses, including 28 DCM sections and seven P.E. classes. About 12-15 regular course offerings were cancelled following upperclassmen registration, the registrar said, adding that the university will cancel all courses with fewer than 10 students registered. 

Now, with a need for more DCM offerings for freshmen, some professors have decided to switch to teaching DCM instead of a regular course. 

An additional 24 off-campus interims have also been cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19. As of right now, the Grand Canyon interim is the only off-campus course still expected to take place.  Six on campus interims have been cancelled due to low enrollment numbers and four to six will most likely be cancelled in the next few weeks.

Professors with fewer than five students registered for their courses have been given the option of teaching an additional course in the spring or a DCM course instead. Most interims with double-digit enrollment are set to continue, since so few are left, Steenwyk said.

“There will be more students that register; we’re really early. Some students might decide and might count up their credits and realize they’re going to be a little bit short, so they’re going to add more,” said Steenwyk.

Although many courses are struggling to stay afloat, others are doing just fine. The English grammar interim, senior engineering classes, The Lord of the Rings interim, and women’s health seem to be fairly popular, Steenwyk said. Other courses focusing on sports, women in politics, Chinese medicine and culture, and diversity and inclusion have also filled up rapidly.

English Professor Karen Saupe, who teaches an interim course entitled “Inside the January Series” said the course has been very popular in the past. This year, however, with interims no longer mandatory, only 3 students have registered. “I love interim because you are focusing on one community and one set of ideas.” said Saupe. In her January Series course, the class gets to meet with the speaker and ask questions. If a student is writing or presenting a paper on a particular speaker, it’s not uncommon for them to get lunch with the speaker as well.

Saupe told Chimes that she likes the change of pace a January interim provides.. “The part that I lament is that the May interim will not be a requirement,” she said. “For many years Calvin has been generous in all kinds of ways, it’s what I really appreciated when I first came here…  A free interim is a little bit like sharing what you have and I understand that is a luxury we don’t have anymore but I am going to miss it.” 

Saupe added that the whole point of interim when it was added to Calvin’s schedule was to give students an opportunity to explore and have fun with a course.  When changes were made to make interim more practical, she said, it took away the term’s overall purpose and appeal.

Education professor Marj Terpstra, who teaches a course called “Teaching and Learning with Technology” voiced her opinion on low enrollment for her interim course by saying she feels sorrow that her students will not get to explore digital technologies any further. Terpstra highlighted that teaching and learning with technology is becoming ever more prevalent, “especially in light of the increased focus on technology-mediated teaching and learning.”