Amid the class cancellations and campus closures of the COVID-19 pandemic, predictions for the size of the class of 2024 have been shrouded in uncertainty. As of the June 1 decision deadline, however, Macalester’s class of 2024 could be larger than usual — 617 new students have committed.
The college had hoped to admit 590 first years. Usually, that number decreases slightly between the decision deadline and the start of the semester as some students back out and around 20-30 students defer for a year. The goal for fall enrollment was 545 first-years and 10 transfer students.
In an email to faculty and staff on Wednesday, June 3, Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid Jeff Allen noted that the exact size of the class of 2024 remains uncertain. Allen wrote that he expects more students than usual to cancel or defer admission by the July 1 deadline.
A large class is good news for Macalester’s financial future — previously, the college predicted that less students than usual would commit, leading to a steep drop in tuition revenue.
Despite the large class size, Macalester still expects to bring in less tuition revenue than usual. The college commits to meet all of students’ demonstrated financial need; for many students, that amount has increased since the onset of the pandemic.
“Commitments from new first-year and transfer students are just the first of many hurdles in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Allen wrote in his email. “Financial need among new students is higher than expected. We expect the same of returning students.”
85 percent of the class of 2024 was admitted with need-based financial aid — for the previous three admitted classes, that number was between 65 and 71 percent.
Macalester will have more students than usual to accommodate on campus in the fall. In addition to the potentially large first-year class, the cancellation of fall study away puts another 160 students on campus.
Accommodating that many students might require adding more classes, Provost Karine Moe wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly.
“We certainly plan to add additional courses to the schedule, should the numbers remain high,” Moe wrote. “We’ve had experience in recent years with higher than expected enrollments, and as in the past, we are able to add courses over the summer.”
More students will also put a strain on campus housing. Even before fall study away was cancelled, Residential Life had a waitlist of students hoping to live on campus. That list has only grown.
And while juniors who had planned to be abroad can live off-campus, first-years are required to live in dorms.
“We remain committed to housing all new incoming first-year students as well as our population who have on-campus housing assignments for the fall,” Assistant Dean of Residential Life Coco Du wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly.
The college has found itself short on housing in the past. When the 624-student class of 2022 entered Macalester, Residential Life housed some first-years in Bigelow Hall and converted a few lounges in residential halls into dorms.
Even with the uncertainty of fall enrollment numbers — and the uncertainty of what next semester will look like — Allen sees the class of 2024 as a promising group, both in numbers and in character.
“One day we will welcome most of these first-year and transfer students to Macalester’s campus,” Allen wrote. “I cannot wait for their voices, experiences, traditions, and hopes to weave into, and ultimately strengthen, the Mac community, now their community.”
Managing Editor Hannah Catlin ’21 contributed reporting to this story