PART 2: Students Stress as Comm Changes

By Elizabeth Scalzo and Jennifer Malti

Editor-in-Chief and Assistant Sports Editor

The more-than-a-decade-long decline in enrollment in the FDU communication is leading to a rethinking of the program. That is complicating students’ route to an on-time graduation as a result of more-limited course offerings.

Gabriel Watson, a Metro senior from Spring Valley, N.Y., majoring in communication, told The Equinox that she chose to attend FDU because of affordability and the opportunity to continue in her sport of fencing.

“When I was offered my financial aid, I knew FDU was where I was going,” Watson said in an interview via Zoom. 

Financial aid is a large part of the consideration for most students. Last year alone, FDU provided $70 million in financial aid, according to FDU Admissions.

Once her decision was made, Watson said she had to adjust her career path.

“I wanted to do more of the animation and filmmaking end, but the Metro campus is where I had my athletic scholarship and didn’t offer that, so I decided on communication,” she said.

Watson came to FDU in 2017 and planned to graduate this month. But, after the restructuring of the communication department and elimination of her concentration, TV production and digital editing, she said she has found it difficult to find classes that fit into her degree audit.

She has extended her studies and is now on track to graduate in December 2021. 

“[The restructuring] hurt me as a student, my concentration was combined into, like, two new things, so none of the courses that are listed are actually taught anymore,” Watson said. “Yeah, I don’t bother just emailing one person anymore [for scheduling advice], I just cc everyone so they can reply to each other until someone has the answer.”

Watson said COMM course offerings have been limited. Then, COVID-19 piled onto a shrinking full-time faculty, and scheduling classes to finish out her degree became even more challenging.

“A lot of the classes just don’t exist in the same capacity or at all because of the rotation of professors, so you never know what is being taught the next semester until it comes time to schedule,” Watson said.

For spring 2021, the catalogue offered 19 communication courses open to all students, with 15 unique courses.  For fall 2021, there are 20 communication courses offered, for 14 courses, according to the WebAdvisor registration portal. Of these, only one is offered to freshmen. But, there won’t be any freshmen committed to communication.

Watson is not alone in struggling to find courses. 

Without the assurance of specific courses being offered during each semester, it can take students an extra semester — or more — to earn their degree. That’s good for university revenue, but comes at a cost to students and their families.

That could mean an extra $20,000 in tuition and fees, for New Jersey residents.

Zaran Khan, a junior communication major from Bergenfield, finished up at Bergen Community College last year as a Phi Theta Kappa honor student. That helped him land scholarship aid to attend FDU, he said via Zoom.

“I ended up with like a $20K scholarship, which was a huge deal,” Khan said.

Now, finishing up his second semester at FDU, Khan has wrestled with the system to get the courses he needs to stay on track.

“I’m a transfer student so I have a lot of options, but some of the prerequisites are only taught one semester and, going into my senior year, if I hadn’t taken the prereq, I have to email professors and try to get into the class,” he said. 

Khan owns his own clothing brand, Vsznary, and hopes to work in fashion when he graduates.

“I don’t just want work in designing the items, I love that because I’m really into fashion, but I’ve learned so much at FDU about marketing and content creation that I could be able to do a lot for a brand,” he said.

While students are gaining skills, the struggle to find classes that fit into the degree audit is one of the major issues of the current program.

Tomorrow, we will speak to visionaries and experts on communication education in higher education to understand what the future looks like. To follow this five-part series, visit our dedicated page.

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Elizabeth Scalzo.

Part two of the five-part series focuses on the student experience in the FDU communication program.