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EECS to implement new transfer policy this fall

By Linda D'Angelo

With its "enrollment crisis" over, the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has recently lifted its policy of "accepting no transfers," according to Professor Leonard A. Gould '48. Course VI was the only department to ever have such a restriction.

After increasing over several years, enrollment in EECS reached problematic proportions in 1983. Well in excess of the department ideal of 270, the number of sophomores declaring Course VI in 1983 totaled 385. The following spring over 150 freshmen were denied entry into 6.001 when 700 students vied for the 400 available spaces, according to Gould.

Since the number of faculty in EECS stays relatively constant, "when the student body doubles you just don't have the resources" to handle them all, Gould said. An enrollment increase this rapid usually does not sustain itself for an extended period of time. Therefore, unable to guarantee new instructors a strong chance at tenure, EECS was wary of significantly increasing the faculty, he explained. In many cases graduate students in the department were called on to help.

Unable to prevent MIT sophomores from choosing Course VI, EECS decided to restrict enrollment of transfer students in the department. In 1984 the Committee on Educational Policy, now the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, granted "special permission for this zero enrollment" which was implemented immediately, Gould explained. For the past five years this restriction has been in effect.

In practice, this policy was carried out by two offices. EECS no longer accepted petitions from transfer students who, enrolled in other MIT departments, wanted to switch to Course VI. And the Admissions Office no longer "turned a blind eye to choice of field" of the transfer applicants to MIT, according to Marilee Jones, associate director of admissions.

Agreeing with Gould, Jones felt that EECS "really did have a serious problem" and so, in an effort to "turn down the heat," the Admissions Office informed transfer applicants of the new restriction from their first inquiries into MIT. All transfer material, admission officers, even acceptance letters told applicants that "openings exist in all departments except Electrical Engineering and Computer Science".

Jones said that this restriction did have an effect on the total number of transfer students who applied for admission to MIT. On average between 100 and 150 transfer students are accepted each year and approximately 70 percent of these enroll. But with the restriction, the number of transfer applicants decreased and those who did apply represented a "much more diverse group," Jones said. It sometimes became difficult to "keep the numbers up [since] there was a quality problem," she commented. MIT "definitely has a certain standard," she said, and rather than sacrifice this for the sake of statistics, her office "only admitted who they felt were qualified."

Restriction lifted

Since 1983, enrollment in EECS has declined and Gould believes this is due to "external forces" rather than factors within MIT. With the explosive growth of the personal computer around 1978, and the wealth of "propaganda" that came with it, high school students got excited about the idea of computers, Gould commented.

As a result, the choice to major in electrical engineering and computer sciences became a popular one. Interest increased until recently, when the job market was saturated causing a "recession in the high tech industry," Gould explained.

For the past several years, enrollment in the department has decreased. According to Registrar's figures, 244 sophomores have declared Course VI as opposed to the over 300 seniors currently enrolled in that major. These statistics support Jones' contention that the transfer restriction, for both transfers from other colleges and transfers from other MIT departments, had "relieved the problem somewhat".

With undergraduate enrollment pressures lessened, EECS began to focus on the "pent-up demand" of transfer students that "needed to be addressed," Gould explained. On Dec. 1, "the `no Course VI' restriction was lifted by the Admissions Office and, in tandem, Course VI's restriction on transfers" from other MIT departments was also lifted, Jones said. This meant transfers enrolled in other departments could now petition EECS for admission, Gould said. And Jones explained that all transfer admission material has been "updated" so that "any mention of the restriction has been deleted."

However, EECS is not actively seeking new enrollees in the department, Gould explained. Only a "very small handful of transfer students from outside" will be accepted by the Admissions Office he said, although the specific numbers have yet to be set, according to Jones. As for the transfers now enrolled in other MIT departments, Gould said once they "realize that they must satisfy our requirements, ... we welcome them."