Effects of overenrollment on campus

Photo by Ariel Bravy

Tech’s incoming freshman class this year is larger than last fall’s by approximately 130 students. This may sound like an inconsequential increase when we are dealing with a population of over 20,000, but when viewed in the context of long-term trends, several potential issues arise from consistent growth.

Tech’s undergraduate population for the 2009–2010 academic year sat somewhere around 18,000. Since then, that number has grown significantly to over 21,000. Growth certainly has benefits for a university, but problems can also arise if proper measures are not taken to prepare the school for a larger influx of students.

With inadequate room to house a larger freshman class, Peer Leaders (PL) are being forced to share rooms, taking away a perk of the position. Registration is a Hunger Games of hand speed, rewarding quick clickers with ideal schedules and leaving scraps for the rest. Students in larger majors, like CS, are watching class seats become increasingly scarce and sometimes even have to relegate required classes — and, by extension, graduation — to future semesters due to disproportionate numbers of students compared to faculty.

While these issues are mostly faced by freshmen and PLs, every student is experiencing the negative effects of overenrollment. Tech’s population has grown in the past ten years; Tech’s facilities have not. Spaces are finding themselves overrun by students at an increasingly drastic ­— and annoying — rate.

Anyone in the student center between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. has seen this issue firsthand. Lines have become so long that it is often unclear whether students are waiting for a chicken sandwich or an eye exam.  A student center expansion sits closely on the horizon, but the consistent growth today cannot be solved by a decade-long construction project.

This is not to say that Tech itself is at fault. Application numbers have skyrocketed — a result of our adoption of the Common App as well as our growing reputation — and the admissions office has no way of realistically knowing how many students will accept a spot at the Institute. Growth also strengthens the financial and intellectual resources of a university; more students mean more money for facilities and more minds to use them for Tech’s cutting-edge work.

It just becomes a matter of Tech itself keeping up with this growth and finding ways to facilitate a larger student body.

Between the student center expansion, a renovated library and a new GTPD building, Tech seems to be headed in the right direction. One has to ask, however: are we letting in too many students too early? Growth trends are bringing in students much faster than facility improvements. Buses and trolleys are becoming increasingly less effective. On-campus dining has become an hour-long affair. Common areas like Skiles Walkway appear more and more like a parade ground every year. Registration has become less about creating a schedule and more about playing an expensive game of musical chairs. Growth is great, but controlled growth is better.