Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Princeton may convert rooms, hire more faculty to accommodate large Class of 2016

The University will increase the capacity of freshman rooms and repurpose residential college social spaces to house students from the larger-than-expected Class of 2016. Additionally, many University programs will also expand their operations to meet the greater demand from the freshman class, in particular by increasing the number of sections for large, popular introductory courses and increasing the number of Writing Seminar courses offered.
For example, the larger student body means the University may need to hire part-time non-tenure track faculty, Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin said. The University does not intend to ask current faculty to increase their teaching load, he added.
Last week, University officials confirmed that the University had overenrolled the Class of 2016 by between 50 and 65 students and would not admit any students off its admission wait list. Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye said in an email that the 66.7 percent yield “exceeded our expectations.”
This was the first year since 2006 that the University offered an early round of admission. Of the students who were admitted through the University’s single-choice early action program, 86 percent ultimately decided to attend Princeton.
In an interview, Rapelye said her office was unaware what the yield was for students admitted regular decision. Yet if 86 percent of the 726 students admitted early — or 624 total students — decided to matriculate to Princeton, then in order to achieve an overall yield of 66.7 percent, 773 of the remaining 1,369 students who were admitted regular decision decided on Princeton. This would mean that Princeton’s regular decision yield — roughly 56.5 percent — would be exactly the same as last year’s overall yield.
The University aims to fill a class of 1,308 students, yet this year 1,397 students — or 66.7 percent of the 2,095 total students offered admission — accepted. Some of these will defer their admission or withdraw from Princeton for a number of reasons in what is called the “summer melt,” Rapelye explained. The final class size will end up being between 50 and 65 students over the target, she predicted.
Rapelye explained that Princeton’s adoption of early action, which coincided with Harvard’s decision to renew an early program in February 2011, made it very difficult for her office to predict the yield. This changing admission landscape in the Ivy League led to the over-enrollment.
“We simply didn’t have a benchmark for this year. The last time Princeton had early action was long enough ago that it didn’t apply,” Rapelye explained.
This year’s yield will serve as a benchmark for future years, Rapelye explained. She noted that the University has not yet decided whether it will admit a smaller-than-average Class of 2017 in order to accommodate the large Class of 2016.
“We will certainly be taking into consideration housing on this campus for the next few years, but we haven’t made that decision yet, and I don’t think we’ll make it for a bit,” she said.
Rapelye said the University is working with Housing and Real Estate Services, the Writing Program, the Freshman Seminar Program and other offices to adapt to the over-enrollment.
In an interview in March after announcing the University’s admission numbers, Rapelye said the University offered “ a very conservative number” of admissions because the University had limited bed space.
“We have bed space for 1,300 students, and we can’t go over. So we’re looking to hopefully come in just under 1,300 and would like to go into the wait list in May and June,” she said at the time.
But on Monday, Undergraduate Housing Manager Angela Hodgeman said in an email that the University should be able to house the additional students. Hodgeman explained that Housing and Real Estate Services is planning to increase the capacity of certain freshman rooms that in recent years had been housing fewer students than they could potentially accommodate.
“For instance, typically a handful of rooms were triples in the past. The last few years they were doubles. They will go back to being freshman triples, their normal capacity,” she said.
Additionally, Hodgeman said the University will repurpose residential college spaces such as lounges and studies into undergraduate housing. Even before the over-enrollment, Whitman College was already in the process of converting study rooms into single rooms.
The 109 rising juniors and seniors currently on the Housing wait list may also be affected by the size of the Class of 2016. Hodgeman explained that it is unlikely these upperclassmen will be placed in a residential college, like some have been in the past. However, no rooms in upperclassman housing will increase in capacity, Hodgeman said.
The large size of the Class of 2016 will also have ripple effects on staffing for courses and other elements of the freshman academic experience.
Director of the Writing Program Amanda Irwin Wilkins GS ’05 said the University will offer five extra sections of the freshman Writing Seminar in order to meet the increased need, increasing the total number of sections over the two semesters from 112 to 117. Wilkins explained that the University decided to increase the total number of seminars by five because it anticipated it would need to place roughly 60 extra students into writing seminars, which have a capacity of 12 freshmen.
Wilkins noted that the Writing Program would both be asking current instructors to teach additional sections as well as bringing in supplemental faculty members to teach Writing Seminars, though none will be teaching more than a full-time course load. She said that because the University has many postdoctoral lecturers, who make up most of the Writing Program instructors, she was not worried about meeting the need for additional faculty.
“We have an embarrassment of riches, and it’s a privilege to go a tiny bit deeper into that pool,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins said in an email that the extra seminars would cost the University additional money. Dobkin, whose office manages the program's teaching budget, declined to comment on how much additional money the expansion would cost.
Deputy Dean of the College Clayton Marsh ’85, who oversees the Freshman Seminar program, said in an email that the University had already planned to expand the program for the upcoming school year to approximately 85 seminars. Marsh explained that this expansion was unrelated to the increase in class size but that it will position the Freshman Seminar program to meet the extra students in the Class of 2016.
However, Marsh did say that the University would have to increase capacity for entry-level classes that are popular among freshmen, such as prerequisites for B.S.E. students or introductory courses in computer science and economics. Marsh said that Dobkin and Dean of the College Valerie Smith are working together to ensure staffing for the increased sections.
Other programs that partially depend on the size of the freshman class will not change in response to the increased class size. Director of the Bridge Year Program John Luria said in an email that the program will not admit a greater number of students to compensate for the size of the Class of 2016. Interclub Council Chair Chris Merrick ’08 said in an email that he did not expect the eating clubs to make any changes to adapt to the higher number of potential eating-club members in the Class of 2016.
Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid Robin Moscato said in an email that the financial aid awards for the freshman class would not be affected, as the size of individual aid is independent of the size of the class.
The University is reaching the end of its plan to increase the size of the undergraduate student body. By this fall, the University planned to increase the number of undergraduates to 5,200, an 11 percent increase in the size of the student body since the gradual expansion began in 2005.
Senior writer Catherine Duazo contributed reporting.


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