Unexpectedly High Yield Brings Large Class of ƒ?TM10

By Brian Martucci

At 501 students, the class of 2010 tops its two predecessors in size. That, combined with a large senior class, the addition of 22 transfer students and the retention of 93 percent of last year’s freshmen, has boosted the college’s total enrollment to over 1,900 students, the highest level since 1971.

Although this number is historically high, the functioning of the school has not been affected in any significant way.

“The Class of 2010 is large, but it’s not the largest class in Macalester’s recent history,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Lorne Robinson said.

Both the classes of both 2001 and 2003 were slightly larger than the current group of first-years.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs Laurie Hamre, a higher-than-expected yield, the percentage of admitted students who enroll at Macalester—26.7 percent overall—led the college to exceed its target class size of 477 students. Typical yields fall between 20 and 25 percent.

Each spring, admissions officers study historical rates of matriculation among the first-year students that Macalester admitted and send acceptance letters to a body of applicants large enough to ensure that at least 477 of them will enroll.

This year’s class is 24 students, or five percent, above the target number.

Robinson is not complaining.

“That’ll happen,” he said. “If you’re under target, then there are some pretty severe financial implications.”

However, a high yield has consequences of its own: crowded living spaces and large classes.

Robinson compared the Admissions Office’s guessing game to the common airline practice of overbooking flights in anticipation of at least a few passengers canceling or changing their travel plans.

There are inherent difficulties in discerning the cause of an increase in matriculation rates, Robinson said. Higher enrollment at Macalester could be part of a national trend. More selective institutions took fewer applicants off their waitlists this year than usual, forcing waitlisted candidates who might normally have been accepted at such places to accept admission at “safety” schools, like Macalester, instead.

“If Harvard or Yale doesn’t take as many students as usual off its waitlist, it creates a ripple effect through the country’s entire higher education system,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that the unusually large freshman class is an aberration, not a historical trend.

“There’s nothing hugely significant about the size of this year’s class,” he said. “If we’d had 80 or 100 more students accepting admission here, it would be a different story, but a rise of five percent or 10 percent is not unusual.”

The incoming class has created a headache for Residential Life, however. The department this summer moved between 10 and 20 sophomores from Dupre Hall to Kirk Hall to make room for incoming first-years. First-years now occupy more Dupre singles than usual, and some triples in Dupre have been converted to doubles.

Displaced sophomores were clustered together in Kirk sections five and six to create “sophomore floors,” said Operation Manager of Residential Life Kathy McEathron,
“We wanted more cohesiveness so that sophomores didn’t feel isolated there,” she said. “We didn’t want to have just one room of sophomores per section.”

Matthew Stone contributed to this report.