2012 class size causes setbacks

An unexpectedly large incoming freshman class caught the University off-guard this summer, forcing administrators to make last-minute adjustments to underclassman housing, financial aid and academics.

Six percent more students accepted the University’s offer of admission this year than last year, meaning 100 more freshmen than anticipated will arrive on campus this fall, said Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz. He said the University planned for fewer students as part of an effort to slow tuition growth and provide more financial aid per student.

“We are still within the range we can handle,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services.

A rising yield rate can indicate a university’s increasing desirability, but it can also cause headaches for administrators. When the admissions office realized the number of students matriculating for the 2008 school year was higher than predicted, administrators had to scramble to find extra beds, more class sections and additional funds for the promised financial aid.

Nearly a dozen transfer students were denied on-campus housing as the University made room for the additional underclassmen, who are required to live on campus, Chernak said.

“There’s been some pressure on transfer housing,” Chernak said. “Every freshman has a bed, but there were some students who wanted housing that we just didn’t have the flexibility to accommodate.”

With residence halls at virtually 100 percent occupancy, Chernak said he hopes the renovations to Pelham Hall and the addition of the new upperclassman residence hall on F Street will offset housing shortages in the future.

“We just want to get through this year,” he said.

The University calculates yield using a variety of factors, including enrollment figures from years past, but Katz admitted it was still an imperfect practice.

“Our understanding is sometimes slightly off, depending on the applicant pool and what’s going on in the marketplace,” he said.

Katz said he was pleased with the number of students, despite having to increase the $118 million in financial aid that was originally set aside for the class of 2012.

“This year’s yield is still reasonably close to assumptions the University made,” Katz said. “Every year, you offer more financial aid then you give, but once you offer a certain amount to a student and the student accepts, you’ve got to give it them.”

Donald Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs, said he starts working with Admissions Director Kathryn Napper in December to predict which schools will need extra course sections, advisers and teaching space. As the deposits for each school trickled in, Lehman said he immediately saw where accommodations would need to be made.

“One school that had a significant jump is the engineering school, with 60 more freshmen entering the program this year than last,” Lehman said. “The good news is they can handle it.”

Historical data on desirable freshman classes and pre-registration done by the incoming class before they arrive at Colonial Inauguration helps Lehman advise department heads on which courses to bolster with additional sections.

Lehman said the larger class has made him primarily concerned with providing freshman with General Course Requirements such as University Writing. Freshmen who find themselves without their perfect schedule should continue to check the registration site for openings but may not receive what they want, he said.

“We’re most likely done adding course sections at this point,” Lehman said. “Not everyone is going to be happy.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.