Banner registration problems for students back from abroad

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Carly Sieff ’09 spent five months in South Africa during this past spring semester, one of over 500 students who chose to study abroad during her junior year last year. Sieff, a science and society concentrator, participated in a program sponsored by Duke University, and though she found it to be a rewarding experience, the process of returning to College Hill didn’t go quite as planned.

On April 7, the Registrar’s office sent an e-mail to all students studying abroad reminding them to preregister – but it also included this caveat for students on “alternative programs”: “your official semester level probably will be lower than you expect, as our office cannot advance you without officially receiving your completed credits.”

Because Sieff’s program wasn’t run by Brown, the University’s registration system – as she had been warned – treated her as someone not actually enrolled in courses for credit that semester, she said. With a semester level of just 5, Sieff couldn’t preregister with the rest of her class – who, as rising seniors, were at semester level 6. This meant that she had to preregister as a junior, losing the one-day preference given to seniors.

About half of the students who studied abroad in the last academic year participated in non-Brown programs and therefore likely ran into the same problem, said Kendall Brostuen, director of international programs and associate dean of the college.

Students who studied abroad in non-Brown programs were considered to be separated from the University, even those who studied at programs on a list pre-approved by the University. “

From the registrar’s point of view, they are still separated from the University until they begin registering for classes during the current semester,” Brostuen said.

In some instances – as with some foreign universities that don’t release course listings until just before their semesters begin – students have a very difficult time getting course credit arranged ahead of time. For students like Sieff, getting credit for work completed abroad involved follow-up meetings with concentration advisers and the Office of International Programs to review and approve the courses taken, Brostuen said.

In spring 2007, members of the class of 2008 studying in non-Brown programs abroad faced the same problem when trying to preregister as rising seniors, The Herald reported on Sept. 20, 2007.

But an administrative change this year should put an end to this Banner hiccup. Starting with the class of 2010, students studying abroad will pay regular Brown tuition – and this change will also give their abroad programs regular credit recognition, allowing them to register for classes as seniors, Brostuen said.

Not every student who attended a non-Brown study abroad program this past year encountered registration or housing difficulties.

Sierra Salton ’09, an English concentrator focusing in nonfiction writing, studied in Brussels during this past spring semester.

“I was very worried about the process,” Salton ’09 said. “I heard that it was harder to register for classes when you do return to campus, but I didn’t have any problems when I came back.”

Despite confusion over registration, Sieff said her semester abroad – which consisted of working in a South African national park and traveling with her professors and 29 other students on safaris, as well as spending time in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Mozambique – was well worth the trouble.

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