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Freshman class enrollment surpasses limits
Special assistant to the provost Ken Vreeland said the university’s strategy has been a ‘real success story.’
Published 9/2/2011
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World Civilizations instructor Richard Hines recalls several students failing to find seats in two of his General Education 110 classes on the first day of this semester.

“I had to turn students away,” Hines said. “My classes are all full.”

That day, Hines’ classes were not just packed, though. They exceeded the limit. Yet, a number of freshmen and transfer students still eagerly waited to enroll in the classes.

The situation resolved itself from then on. Seats became available as a number of students quit showing up, and many who needed to get into the classes found a convenient opening. Even so, Hines still receives emails from students who want to enroll in his classes.

Hines’ story is just a small part of the bigger picture: how the university is managing the historically large incoming class of an estimated 4,200 freshmen at the Pullman campus this fall. Administrators, like Ken Vreeland, a special assistant to the provost, laud the university’s strategy toward adapting to the major increase in freshmen enrollees.  

“To sum it all up, it is a real success story how we accommodated this large freshman class coming in,” Vreeland said.

The basic strategy to accommodate for the influx of freshmen was to create more class sections and hire more instructors to take them on for a short-term basis. In addition, many class sizes would grow and some teachers would take on an extra class. However, the growth of class sizes was generally to an insignificant degree, Vreeland said.   

Vreeland works with deans, associate deans and others to decide where the university needs to create these surplus class sections. After evaluating the incoming class size, the university made moves to add class sections in a variety of fields from communication and liberal arts to the sciences and engineering.

The university hired three new instructors to teach World Civilizations classes this fall. Each instructor came to WSU to teach four sections of the class on a one-year contract.

One of the instructors, Tom Lansburg, who moved to Pullman from New Jersey to teach four World Civilizations classes of 100 students, said his classes have adequate seating. He also does not know of any other instructors or professors who still have trouble finding enough seats for their students.

Despite having a limit of 165 students in his largest class, Hines’ class has a reported enrollment of 171, according to online records from the Office of the Registrar. Yet, Hines said there will almost always be enough seats for his students.

“Some students just quit showing up almost immediately, so you always have a few seats available,” he said. “You don’t really see the problem until exam days, when everyone comes again.”

A number of World Civilizations classes also exceed enrollment for instructor Ken Faunce this semester. However, he has not noticed that any of his students have struggled to find seats.

“My cap on most of (the classes) was set at 145 to begin with, and then I let a few more students in because I lose a few,” Faunce said. “After the first couple weeks of class, I’ll be right around 145 again.”

Faunce’s largest class has about 150 students this semester.

“They do feel full,” Faunce said. “I mean, when you fill every seat in a class, the room does feel very full.”

His classes were not always so large. Several years ago, he taught classes of about 100 students. The size has grown each year, but he said an extra student or two makes virtually no difference for the educational process.

Official numbers for the size of the freshman class and the entire student population at the Pullman campus will come out next week, said Sol Jensen, the executive director of Enrollment Services.

Though taking on such an influx of incoming students might seem difficult, Jensen said it is not as bad as it may seem. The large graduating class of last spring, along with the much smaller freshman class of last fall, created more space on campus for a larger freshman class this year, he said.

Jensen credits growth in visitors to the campus with incurring the major increase in freshmen enrollees.

“Going back all the way to 2005 since I started tracking all this every year, we’re seeing this huge growth in the number of visitors,” Jensen said. “There’s a correlation there between the number of students that visit campus and the number of students that enroll.”

He also said bringing in more freshmen has been a positive move for the university’s ailing budget.

“This year, we have a little bit better understanding of what the budget was going to be like, knowing that we could actually help offset some of the budget shortfalls by enrolling more students,” Jensen said.

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