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Tentative Plan to Raise Standards Could Curb Overcrowding

With a record freshman class of more than 7,500 students and similarly large numbers over the past three years, Indiana University is coping with overcrowding.  The university uses complex mathematical models to predict the number of students but, in recent years, these models have come up short.

“I think what’s happened is we’ve seen interest in Indiana at an all time high,” said Roger Thompson, vice provost for enrollment management on the Bloomington campus.

“Last year we had 31,000 applications, as an example, four years ago we had about 20,000 applications.”

Thompson credits this year’s growth to higher enrollment by Indiana residents with Grade Point Averages over 3.75 and SAT scores over 1300. This demographic grew by 30 percent from the previous year, substantially more than the university predicted.

“So, you know what we learned last year was, and this sounds crazy to say because it was the most competitive admissions process we’d ever had in the history of Indiana University.  We we’re probably too lenient,” Thompson said.

Admissions officials say they’re expecting between 33 and 34,000 applications this year and a recent estimate shows an increase of 17 percent versus 2007.

“If that application growth holds we will have been too lenient again this year. We can’t handle 17 percent growth. We’re trying to shrink, not grow,” Thompson said.

Provost Karen Hanson says the university wants to increase the number of freshmen general education classes, rather than make classes larger.  But with numbers uncertain, the hiring process for new faculty is stuck in neutral.

“It’s important to note that we can’t hire full time tenure-track faculty in June to begin in September.  The process of hiring a faculty member is typically at least a year long,” Hanson said.

Hanson says the university was able to accommodate this year’s freshman class by hiring more adjunct lecturers and asking faculty members to take on additional courses.

Then there’s the issue of living space. IU began the year with more than 140 students living in lounges.  Fourteen students still remain in Teter, Briscoe, Read and Forest dormitories.

Patrick Connor, Executive Director of Residential Programs and Services, says it’s not IU’s first time housing students in lounges, but says normally the lounges are empty after a few weeks.

“We told all those students up front that it was going to be a lot longer to place them. And in fact told it might be as long as the entire semester,” Conner said.

Connor it’s hard to know how many students will actually show up each fall.  He says the number of transfer and international students needing on-campus housing is especially hard to predict.

“If for example they told me today that we were going to have 7,500 students again we would take the approach of probably not allowing any students who are returning next year to ask for a double single,” Conner said.

Connor says the university could house up to 10,500 students on campus.  However, his department is concerned that not allowing some students who live alone to have rooms designed for double occupancy would hurt recruiting and retention of students after their freshman year.  Admissions director Roger Thompson says there’s not an end to increased applications in sight,

“At some point I would think applications would begin to slow down and we wouldn’t just grow by several thousand each year,” he said. “But right now, all appearances are, it’s gonna keep growing.”

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