‘Landlocked’: freshman class larger than university expected

The incoming freshman class’s enrollment exceeded the university’s target goal this year by more than 7 percent. Graphic by Emma Stessman

This semester, about 1,600 freshmen were expected to enroll at Chapman. However, about 120 more students arrived at the beginning of Orientation Week, exceeding the university’s target enrollment goal for freshmen by more than 7 percent.

“When you get surprised like this, it’s like having parties where you ask everyone to RSVP and suddenly, everyone’s bringing their friends,” said Jim Whitaker, the associate vice president of enrollment management and chief financial aid officer. “It’s a shock to the system.”

Enrollment is intended to increase by about 2 percent each year, or by about 28 students, Whitaker said. The size of last year’s freshman class was 1,546, Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Mike Pelly wrote in an email, which means that the incoming class has increased in size by about 11 percent.

Whitaker anticipates that the number of incoming freshmen will decrease within the next couple of weeks, but still describes it as higher than expected.

“Enrollment is based on historical trends,” Whitaker said. “We assumed that from those students who deposit, we would have 10 percent decide they don’t want to be here.”
Instead, Whitaker said, only 5 percent decided not to matriculate, or enroll, at Chapman this semester.

A housing overflow led some freshmen to live in the Sandhu Residence Center, a dorm typically reserved for sophomores and upperclassmen. Panther Archives

To adapt to the increase in enrolled freshmen, the university is offering more classes and is reconfiguring its on-campus housing options, Whitaker said. On-campus housing options that normally would have been offered to upperclassmen went to freshmen, he said, leaving many upperclassmen without housing.

Whitaker also said that dorm rooms that are intended to be doubles were converted to triples to accommodate the increase in freshmen.

“When you get hit with a surprise like this, you need to do a lot of scrambling,” Whitaker said. “Housing has done some great maneuvering to house these students.”
The university’s expansion has also caused issues for some faculty, who are left without office spaces and classrooms.

“We have a challenge with classroom space. Although we’re not 100 percent utilized on campus, we’re 100 percent utilized at the best times of day,” said Provost Glenn Pfeiffer. “Everybody wants to take their classes at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and we can’t have all of the classes at those times, obviously.”

Pfeiffer said that the university is trying to combat the space issue by placing faculty in shared offices.

“There are a lot of classes, unfortunately, where the faculty member is coming in and their office is their briefcase, and they have to find a space to meet with students,” Pfeiffer said.
He attributes some of the lost office and classroom space to renovations on campus.

“I would estimate that approximately 40 people have been displaced as a result of the Reeves Hall renovation,” Pfeiffer said. “That’s one of the challenges we’re going to be working on in the next few years: expanding office space for faculty and classroom space for students and faculty.”

Although Chapman admits more students each year, there isn’t much room for the university to expand, Whitaker said.

“I would like to get us back to a measured, controlled growth — no more than 2 percent,” Whitaker said. “We’re landlocked. Until we have some additional housing, I think it’s wise to keep our class around the size that we had anticipated.”

Read The Panther’s editorial about this year’s large freshman class here.

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