Crossing Campuses: WFU’s cross-registration system with Salem College

By Merritt Enright

    It is the first day of Fall semester at Wake Forest University and sophomore Emma Battle joins the throngs of students making their way across the brick labyrinth of campus.   

    As Battle takes her seat in Latino Political Behavior and listens to Professor Wilkinson take attendance, she never hears her name called.  The professor seems confused, looking up at Battle and then back to the roster in search of a missing name. When introductions go around the room, one-by-one, the rest of the students find out why.  

    “My name is Emma Battle,” she says, “but I actually don’t go here.”  

    Battle, in fact, attends Salem College.

    Each semester, approximately 15-30 students from Salem College enroll in courses at Wake Forest.  This is a part of the WFU cross-registration relationship with Salem, which began in 1961 as a way for both institutions to expand their course offerings. According to Richard Vinson, Dean of Academics at Salem College, the program allows Salem and Wake Forest students to utilize academic opportunities otherwise not available at their own school.  

    “It is a long-standing arrangement,” said Vinson.  “Students benefit by being able to take courses that either are not offered or won’t be offered in a timely fashion on the home campus,”

    Salem’s academic records report that the cross-registration arrangement dates back to 1961.  The arrangement was dubbed “cross-registration” and developed into a full-fledged program in the early 1980s as students from both campuses sought broader academic opportunities.  For students like Battle, the cross-registration system plays an integral part in expanding her educational horizons.

    “When I took Latino Political Behavior at Wake Forest, there wasn’t anything like it being offered at Salem at the time,” said Battle.  “It’s a great way to add diversity to your education, whether that be diversity of opinions, subject matter or even college campuses.”

    Significantly more Salem students cross-register each semester, taking advantage of Wake’s extensive course offerings in Political Science, History, Journalism, and musical ensembles,   This semester, 15 Salem students and 4 Wake students are cross-registered.  

    “Because of Salem’s size, it is hard for the professors to teach focused topics,” said Salem College junior Ella Hill. “So every semester I skim the Wake Forest History Department website for their upcoming course schedule.”

    Likewise, cross-registration enables Salem students to experience a co-ed campus while still receiving the benefits of a women’s education.  Hill, who has taken two courses titled Fashion in the Age of the Atlantic Revolution and Music History of Winston-Salem at Wake Forest, reports that WFU’s cross-registration system played a role in her college decision.  

    “When I went through the college search process, Wake Forest University and Salem College caught my eye,” said Hill. “I thought it was neat that at Salem College you had a school wide sisterhood support system, but could also get a taste of a co-ed institution with opportunities like attending athletic games and cross-registration.”

    For Wake Forest students, Salem’s niche course offerings in Arts Management and Not-for-Profit Management appeal to those looking for more specified areas of study.  

    “Some Wake Forest music majors are taking Arts Management courses at Salem, since Wake Forest doesn’t have that program,” said Vinson. “Most semesters there are at least one Wake student taking courses at Salem.”

    To Wake Forest senior Tiansong Zhou, taking a course at Salem meant he could complete his Business Enterprise Management and Archeology major, a track that can be carved through WFU’s Anthropology Department and Business School.  In order to graduate, Zhou still needed to take an upper level art course, but was unable to register for any Wake art courses without certain prerequisite classes.

    “I couldn’t take any museum/gallery classes at Wake Forest because they are higher level classes and I did not take any entry art classes [for prerequisites],” said Zhou. “So my advisor recommended I look at the Salem course catalog.”

     At Salem, Zhou could fulfill a WFU credit by taking arts management courses, which do not require entry level art.  He enrolled in Museums and Galleries taught by Cynthia Marvin, making the 10-minute drive twice a week to Salem’s downtown campus.  He summarized his experience at Salem as “interesting…very different from Wake but still good.”

    Is it odd being a male student on an all-women’s campus?  “Definitely not,” Zhou reported.  “I am kind of enjoying it.”

    The registration process itself is less straightforward.  According to Melissa Cumbia, Academic Counselor at Wake Forest, the student must first receive approval from the Dean of Academics by writing a brief explanation regarding why they want to take the class.  Once approved to move forward, the student must also contact the course professor and ask for permission to join the roster.  On receiving the professor’s approval, the student’s paperwork is then sent to the WFU registrar for processing, but the student will not be formally added to the waitlist until a few days before the start of the course.  Even then, the student must remain on the waitlist until the course begins.   

    “Cross-registering was a very long and complicated process which took about a month,” said Zhou, who is one of four Wake students enrolled at Salem this Spring.  

    Aside from the complicated enrollment process, another abnormality arises in the financial logistics of cross-registering.  When a student cross-registers at Wake or Salem, they are not required to pay any independent tuition cost to that school.  When asked how the course cost is accounted for, the administration declined to comment due to FERPA regulations.  

    Since the “arrangement” of cross-registration has no specific financial policy that is publicly disclosed, this raises the question of whether it is fair for Salem students, who pay roughly $25,000 in tuition, to receive the benefits of a WFU education, which costs approximately $44,000 per year not including room and board.  It can be assumed that each school merely exchanges the necessary costs for courses, but the absence of information is unsettling.  

    “My impression is that this is very good arrangement for all concerned,” said Vinson. “If there ever were issues needing resolution, I’m confident that we and our good friends at Wake Forest could work things out.”

    The vagueness and complications of cross-registering may explain why it is largely unadvertised by administrators and unbeknownst to students, particularly at Wake Forest.  Donors to Wake Will, for example, might not be pleased to know that their financial gifts could be benefitting the education of non-WFU students.

    However, on the student level, cross-registration seems to only reap positives and offer diversity to both Wake and Salem undergraduates.  Hill, Battle, and Zhou all agreed that they would recommend cross-registration at both schools and for all majors.  While the administrative process might be an enigma, the pros of student experiences appear to outweigh the unidentified cons.

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