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In Brief

Faculty & Staff Notes




Record-size class coming to campus

When one of Vanderbilt’s largest freshman classes ever arrives on campus in a little more than a month, the University will be ready for it.

While it’s still too early to say for certain how large the Class of 2003 will be, the housing office as well as academic offices are busy gearing up for a class that may well exceed last year’s freshman class by more than 100.

Last week Dean of Undergraduate Admissions William Shain said 1,675 students had accepted the University’s offer of admission, although that number is likely to decrease somewhat before classes start Aug. 24. Last year’s freshman class numbered 1,495. The largest freshman enrollment to date is 1,597 in fall 1991.

University officials are closely monitoring registration activity to determine what adjustments they must make to accommodate the students. “We have been working diligently for the past month adding freshman seminars. We’re looking carefully at registration numbers to determine whether we need to hire extra instructors,” said George Graham, associate dean of the College of Arts and Science, Vanderbilt’s largest school. The college is expecting about 100 more freshmen than last year.

Although the College of Arts and Science has enrolled more students than it had planned for, “Peabody and Engineering are pretty much where they wanted to be,” Shain said. Both schools wanted to increase their enrollment. Blair’s projected freshman enrollment stands at 57, compared to last year’s freshman class of 42.

Also watching the numbers closely are housing officials. Mark Bandas, associate dean of residential and judicial affairs, said there is enough flexibility in the University’s housing units to accommodate comfortably a larger than normal freshman class.

A number of the study rooms in Branscomb Quadrangle as well as Carmichael Towers can easily be converted to student rooms, with the same furniture and accommodations found in other freshman rooms. That includes one computer line for each student and cable television. In most cases, students will share their room with one other student. In a few cases, four students may share a room, but that will be the case only in larger study rooms, Bandas said. Those students will receive a 37 percent discount of the regular $2,463 per semester housing fee.

In addition, a floor of Lewis House, which originally was intended for upperclassmen, will be used for additional freshman spillover. These are one- and two-bedroom apartments.

“Everyone will be housed in accommodations roughly comparable to the regular student room,” Bandas said. Students who want to leave their rooms to study will still have plenty of options, Bandas said, because most of the residence halls have a number of common areas, such as lounges and dining areas, where students can study. In addition, the plan is to alternate the floors on which study halls will be converted, leaving the others available as study areas.

The reasons for the increased freshman numbers are unclear, but Shain noted that the percentage of students accepting Vanderbilt’s offers of admissions increased from 28.7 percent last year to 32.5 percent. That amounts to an unlikely 14 percent increase in yield. “But that’s what happened. That’s the biggest reason we’re over,” he said.

Other selective top-tier universities have also reported enrollment increases. Overall, a record 14.8 million students are expected to attend four-year institutions of higher education this year, compared to 14.6 million in fall 1998. Shain said it is too early to determine what role the national trend has played in Vanderbilt’s numbers. He is awaiting an analysis of information on the students who accepted the admissions offers to determine what were the factors in their decisions to come to Vanderbilt.

Robert Zemsky, director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said some of the increase in college students nationally can be attributed to adult learners, but the phenomenon affecting admissions numbers at schools such as Vanderbilt that cater to the more traditional student is the “increased number of students and families that are seeking a brand name education.”

“That is a direct function of two factors. First, the dominating economy. And second, the sense on the part of parents—and really a sense of panic—that they want to give their kids a leg up in the workplace. And they feel they can do that with a brand name education.”

For some time now, parents and students have recognized that a college education is fundamental to success, Zemsky said. “Now there is a realization that what matters is the name on the diploma, not just the diploma.”