The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Freshman overload

By David Hertz

The largest recorded freshman class since at least 1989, and what the college believes to be the largest class in Macalester’s history, arrived on campus last week. The unexpectedly large class necessitated adjustments in housing, food service, academics and student employment.The college expects to matriculate 587 students, comprising 566 freshmen and 21 transfer students. The average number of freshman enrolled has historically been rising; it is 482 over the past 20 years, 486 over the past ten and 488 over the last five. The college will release its final tally of the freshman class on Sept. 19.

To house the freshman class, Residential Life filled all quads and triples to full capacity, and used the second floor of Turck Hall’s study rooms as doubles and its lounges as quads. This marks the first time in five years that the study rooms have been used to house students, and it is the first time ever that the lounges have been used as dorm rooms. Some sophomores were also moved from Dupre into Kirk Hall to make room for freshmen, and 17 juniors and seniors were moved into the Summit House, which previously held the International Center.

“[The class] is leading to all sorts of small adjustments, but I’m pretty optimistic that it won’t seem like such a big deal once everyone’s all here,” Director of Campus Life Keith Edwards said. “I don’t expect a lot of drama or a lot of stress.”

Joar Kvamsas ’13 said living in the lounge hasn’t bothered him and that he has enjoyed the extra space. However, he said he was caught off guard by the interior-facing floor to ceiling windows, which the college covered with blinds to form makeshift walls.

“I was here for more than an hour before I realized that we didn’t have a wall there,” Kvamsas said.

Café Mac is bracing for increased traffic, as it sees the influx of almost 600 freshmen with mandatory meal plans, said Cindy Haarstad, director of the campus center.

The Atrium in the second floor of the Campus Center and Scottie’s in the Leonard Center are offering boxed lunches to reduce congestion in Café Mac at midday. Students can purchase the meals through their normal meal plan, just as they would at Café Mac.

Administrators cut classes with low enrollment to allow professors to teach larger classes that would have space for freshmen, said Provost Kathleen Murray.

After cuts to faculty last year, more non-tenured professors were hired this year to teach additional classes created to provide freshman with an additional course.

Although professors created three new first year courses, some of the classes still had to go slightly over the 16-student cap on enrollment. (Most courses that exceed the cap have 17 students.)

Raises for student employment jobs were also affected. Shortly before the beginning of classes, the student employment office emailed students with a note telling them that additional hours would not be approved in order to ensure that all students who received student employment as part of their financial aid package would be able to work.

Exactly why Macalester’s incoming class is so large is unclear, said Lorne Robinson, director of admissions and financial aid.

“All the stories you read in the New York Times were all doomsday, Chicken Little, the bottom’s going to fall out of expensive colleges this year,” Robinson said. “Then, when the admissions numbers came in, the tone of the stories turned around.”

In the midst of the recession this summer, Macalester’s admissions department was nervous about the prospects for this year’s class. Applications dropped by almost 500, about nine percent, and slightly more students were admitted than last year.

Robinson said he is still worried that the dip in interest in expensive private liberal arts colleges may arrive next year. Current high school seniors have gone through most of their college search during the recession, whereas this year’s college freshmen were finishing their search as the recession arrived, he said.

For now, administrators say they are glad the class was over, rather than under, the target size.

“We’re happy to see this class,” Murray said. “Given the economy of last year and the uncertainties, we have landed in a very good place.

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