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Planning Schedules for the Future

5 minute read

With 60 percent of college students categorized as post-traditional, most institutions are looking for new ways to ensure students can meet the demands of work, family, and school sustainably.  

Advising and registration are complex, and long-term planning is understandably a daunting subject for many institutions. The off-season can be the perfect time to take a step back, analyze individual components, and determine plans for improvement – such as the introduction of an annual schedule – to create a direct impact on the regular season.  



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Seven Steps to Use Data to Inform the Process

  1. Establish goals. Ideally, 70-80% of the schedule planned in advance with room for adjustments. 

  2. Determine courses for each term to ensure student completions. Use pathways to inform decision making for appropriate prerequisite and co-requisite requirements.  

  3. Analyze available data to determine the number of sections needed for each course. Consider how incoming/undecided students could impact current and projected enrollment. Review historical offerings and look at enrollment ratios, demand, and bottlenecks. Validate historical offerings compared to the pathway design. 

  4. Build a scheduling model with the most-common scenario in mind. Begin with fall start, traditional semester scheduling, full-time, and associated data to determine courses and number of sections to schedule.
  5. Layer in additional scheduling opportunities: full-time/part-time; DFW rates; day/evening offerings; modality; or multiple parts of term. 

  6. Eliminate overlapping patterns and optimize the grid to meet common use cases. Consider lab and studio requirements and standard lecture patterns. 

  7. Communicate the scheduling model to your institution and to students. Publish the schedule annually and provide course rotation schedules to assist with student planning.  

By understanding who makes up the student population, institutions can create opportunities to successfully structure annual scheduling to meet the competing demands students face and achieve degree velocity.  






Fast facts


5% of FT students at 2-year institutions graduate on time (Complete College America) 


Only about 20% of institutions said they scheduled a year in advance. 62% indicated they scheduled one term in advance or less. (AACRAO 60-Second Survey on Class Scheduling Practices and Technology report) 


60% of students fall into the post-traditional student category.
(The American Council on Education)


43% of full-time students and 81% of part-time students work in addition to attending school.
(The National Center for Education Statistics) 


Thirty-six million Americans have some postsecondary education but no degree completion. (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center) 




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