With more than 100 new students in the incoming freshman class compared to 2014, problems could come up in two or three years, the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees were told during Thursday’s meeting.
“We predicted— and we were right — that we have a very large incoming freshman class,” said Anne Alexander, associate vice president of academic affairs. “I call it the engineer blob.”
Many new students are entering engineering majors, said Sara Axelson, vice president of student affairs. The freshman class could be up to 1,700 — a record enrollment for UW.
“We’ve seen quite a rise, attributed primarily to engineering, but also to other programs and nonresident people,” she said.
This could be attributed to the engineering initiatives currently underway, Alexander said.
“We’re positively happy with how those initiatives have affected enrollment,” she said.
“(Increased class size) is great for the university. We just need to prepare.”
Offering more lower-level sections is perhaps the greatest need.
“It’s my understanding that we didn’t get (enrollment) information until later in the summer,” said David Jones, vice president of academic affairs. “We knew at that point that we were going to have to scramble to meet student needs.”
For students to graduate in four years, certain classes need to be taken at certain times, Jones said, because of some prerequisites needed for later classes.
“If freshmen can’t take (required classes) during their first year, it could increase their graduation time by a semester or possibly a year,” he said.
One-year lecturers and graduate students were hired to teach additional entry-level courses, Jones said. About 25 new sections in various classes were opened throughout the university.
“We’re not sure how we are going to direct funds, whether it be a one-time allocation or knowing it could be a permanent problem, and we need to allocate permanent dollars to a number of sections offered for a course,” he said.
One solution already underway is a more robust pre-registration program for incoming freshmen, Alexander said.
“During orientation, we give them a list that says these are three courses you will be taking based on their majors,” she said.
The goal is to have 100 percent pre-enrollment by fall 2017, she said.
Another way departments are alleviating stress is by consolidating majors, Alexander said.
“Theater and dance went from having nine different majors down to five concentrations and one other major,” she said. “We have 220 degree options right now, and we’re thinking that might be too much.”
Trustee Michelle Sullivan said whatever changes or additions are made to majors or courses, students still need a good education.
“We want to make sure we’re not just pushing students through to get their degree,” she said. “We want them to get a mastery of their field.”