Changes in enrollment part of long term plans

Jeff Peyton

President Warch and the administration announced at a board of trustees meeting this Jan. that they would continue to increase enrollment gradually over the next five years with the goal of reaching and then maintaining 1,400 students. At the same time, the university began to consider the possible implications of, some years from now, increasing to a 1,600 member student body. Warch, in an interview with The Lawrentian, said that the increase to 1,400 could be made with only the addition of a residence hall as proposed in the Sasaki report, though plans to increase to 1,600 would necessitate additional infrastructure and would be a longer term project, possibly 10 to 15 years from now.

Warch explained the university’s motivations for the increase in enrollment. First, a larger student body would, by definition, be a more vibrant and varied student body which could reinvigorate student life. Second, the school would have the opportunity to increase the number the faculty and, in doing so, could enhance and expand the univerisity’s curriculum. And third, there are advantages associated with enhanced revenue; since students are not a burden to offset, it is to the school’s fiscal advantage to have them.

Indicating that the plan to increase to 1,600 students was still in its early stages, Warch said that the university still needed to assess the relative advantages of a 1,600-person campus and to determine the costs of the additional infrastructure that would be required to accommodate the enlarged faculty and student body.

Whether the increase is ultimately to 1,400 or 1,600 students, it will require the university to consider the impact of a larger population on the its infrastructure in terms of residential and recreational facilities in the short run and in terms of academic buildings for students and faculty in the longer term.

Warch characterized the enrollment increase as a movement towards “cautious growth,” noting that the usual admission standards for incoming students would be observed. This, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Steve Syverson, is possible because the size of the applicant pool has also increased during the past several years.

The plan proposed to the trustees in Jan. anticipates that the increase to 1,400 will be complete within five years, though that report is based on a number of assumptions, said Warch. The central assumption is the construction of a new residence hall. Because enrollment is currently higher than usual—1,275 students at the beginning of this year compared with 1,176 in the 1997-98 academic year—student housing is at 97 percent capacity. Accommodating additional students would, therefore, require new facilities.

The Sasaki Report, dated October 2000, suggests two building sites for a new residence hall—one between Trevor and Sage, the other just south of Ormsby, on the current location of the tennis courts. Either site could support a building large enough to hold at least 200 beds, which is enough space not only to accommodate the additional students, but also to serve as surge space so that other residence halls could be refurbished. The report suggests that a new building would cost between $8- and $11-million and would probably present upper classmen with suite-style living. Additionally, the university now owns the Executive House apartment building, located at the corner of Mead and East John. That facility would, according the report, hold an additional thirty beds.

Warch believes, in terms of infrastructure, that except for the resident hall, the campus could accommodate the larger student body without any significant construction or manipulation of the campus. Despite that, the increase to 1,400 would cause a number of changes on campus that should be considered.

For example, the increase in the student body could offset the 11:1 student to faculty ratio. Responding to such concerns, Warch pointed out both that the difference between a ratio of 11:1 versus 12 or 13:1 is negligible, but also adding that growth in the student population was typically met with incremental growth in the faculty—which could be added to departments that are in particular need. Although there isn’t currently a plan in place, Warch said that, hypothetically, he could picture adding staff to the Biology Department, which has grown in recent years, as well as hiring someone to support the new and quite popular Environmental Studies department, though perhaps in an interdisciplinary capacity.

Warch also indicated that, though he didn’t have absolute criteria, he envisioned the majority of the university’s growth being reflected in the college rather then in the conservatory. Already crowded, the conservatory is listed third on the Sasaki reports priority list, which suggests the addition of 40,000 square feet onto the conservatory, though that addition may not come for a number of years.

The Sasaki Report prioritizes the changes they recommend and while the new residence hall tops the list, the second item is the new campus center, which, said Warch, when completed, will be the largest and most expensive building on campus. In addition to placing the services presently offered by Downer Commons and the Memorial Union under one roof, the new student center, as proposed in the report, will include lounges, computer labs/classrooms, meeting rooms, a theater/auditorium, space for student organizations, a ballroom, dining/food service, a post office, a convenience store/retail, central administration offices, a bookstore, a diversity center, a gallery, the WLFM studios, and student services offices. Warch indicated that the new campus center was still in its early phases of planning but that ideally it would be completed or at under construction in five years.

The student center, according to Warch, will be built to accommodate 1,600 students. In the event that Lawrence should decide to increase to that number, the building will have the space to accommodate the growth. Two locations for the new center have been proposed, one that would be built in front of Kohler, on Law Street, while the other occupies the west end of the fraternity quad.

The Sasaki report, in addition to considering which new buildings should be built, also assigns potential uses to old ones. For example, the Memorial Union may, upon the completion of the new student center, be used for academic surge space, which would include such things as a computer lab, computer services, academic support services, as well as classroom space. Downer will also be vacant when the new student center is complete, allowing it to be reassigned as well.

The long term costs for the additional residence hall and the student center are quiet high—according to Sasaki’s estimates, between $24 – $38 million—and Warch commented on the funding of the project. Much of the money comes through fund raising—for Science Hall, they raised $13 of the $18 million—and most of the rest of it is paid with loans that are slowly repaid. Significant fund raising will need to be done on the student center, Warch explained, before it will be started. Warch stressed that buildings were not paid for out of student tuition, and that possible increases in tuition were not related to the project.

In final comments on the increase in enrollment and the significant changes that will take place on campus in the next several years, Warch emphasized the difference between expanding to 1,400 and expanding 1,600. Though 1,400 could be reached with relatively few changes, the additional 200-student increase after that would require significant changes in the university’s infrastructure and subsequent changes in faculty and academic buildings and office space. The increase to 1,400 students, assuming all goes to plan during the next five years do
es, however, present significant changes to the campus, including increased staff, increased students, and a significantly different appearance to campus.