Tech’s current enrollment stands at 18,000, the highest in the Institute’s history. This phenomenon has two primary sources: a high retention rate and increased graduate enrollment. The high numbers can also be attributed to several subtle secondary sources, said Associate Director of Residence Life Dan Morrison.
“Tech continues to be attractive to people, and Tech is also doing a better job retaining people,” Morrison said.
Housing has played a significant role in increasing retention, according to Morrison. “We were able to keep more students on campus now because of the North Avenue Apartments,” he said. “All these little differences add up to more students.”
Housing, however, is not reeling under the impact of this singular spike in enrollment. But prolonged swelling in enrollment would necessitate re-examination of bed-space.
“We have about 600 more students living on campus than we thought we would a year ago,” Morrison said. The result was that the recently-acquired North Avenue Apartments, which was initially planned to house half its total capacity, was filled to the maximum.
An increase in graduate admissions mandated altering the norm of graduates living in the Graduate Living Center (GLC) only.
“The GLC filled up for the first time in four years, so we have graduates living in North Avenue and some other West campus apartments,” Morrison said.
He added that Housing was looking into alternative locations that would better serve the unique needs of graduate students.
Housing has managed to accommodate an extra 1,400 people in a single year without making any major changes, a feat that cannot be repeated if the increases in enrollment persist, according to Morrison. “If we continue to hit these numbers over time, five or six years down the line, we’ll be right back where we started from, needing to worry about having more beds,” Morrison said.
Morrison said that a significant factor in the spike in housing was the lack of suitable student housing options outside of campus.
“More and more around Tech, the housing is becoming more expensive and not targeting students at Tech,” Morrison said, citing families as the principal target group of housing offerings around campus.
Morrison also cited a lack of precedent as an obstacle to planning for upcoming semesters, but was nevertheless optimistic about the choices that were offered to residents. “We are having to make decisions for the next year or so without really having a track record for this many beds,” he said.
Already, Housing has converted Armstrong (a dorm traditionally reserved for upperclassmen on West campus) into a Freshman Experience dorm. Hefner is slated to follow suit in the fall.
“I feel we have lots of types of Housing for students, but we really don’t have enough knowledge about the next year,” Morrison said.
While individual departments around campus are working to help the new enrollees settle in, students are already noticing the increasingly dense population on campus.
“Now that I think about it, it does seem like there are always crowds waiting for buses,” said Matthew Buckner, third-year Chemical Engineering major.
“All of my classes are full,” Buckner said, but added optimistically, “maybe this will help out our ratio.”
“They should add more Trolley routes so I won’t have to miss any more classes,” said Jared Schaeffer, a fourth-year Chemical Engineering major, alluding to the increase in Tech Trolley and Stinger occupancy.