Quad Day 2004 on Sept. 24 drew throngs of students to the UI Quad behind the Illini Union for free entertainment and opportunities to hobnob with representatives of campus and community organizations. This year's freshman class numbered more than 7,200 students, 436 more than last year's record-setting class, according to preliminary enrollment reports.
Photo by Kwame Ross
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While the farmers in downstate Illinois are preparing for this fall’s harvest, on the UI’s Urbana campus there is already a bumper crop – of freshmen, that is. According to preliminary enrollment reports, there are approximately 7,258 freshmen on campus this fall, a record high for the campus and an increase of more than 436 over last year’s freshman class. Total undergraduate enrollment for fall 2004 is 29,246, up slightly from 28,589 in fall 2003.
Many, but not all, universities around the country are experiencing record-high freshman enrollment, attributable in part to the increased population of people in the 18-22 age group, and in Illinois, to record numbers of high school graduates as well.
“We’re hitting the ‘baby boomlet,’ ” said Carol Livingstone, associate provost and director of the Division of Management Information, who added that the academic standing of incoming freshmen remains high as well. Members of the incoming freshmen class have mean composite scores of 27.7 on the ACT and rank in the 87th percentile of their high schools.
“We have a growing population of high school grads in Illinois through 2010,” said Ruth Watkins, associate provost. “We have a very competitive pool of applicants from which to choose and really more students from which to choose than ever.”
This year, the campus accepted 64.7 percent of the 22,882 applications received from potential freshmen.
Ann Mester, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said that LAS had an influx of more than 300 freshmen and increased the number of course sections by about 5 percent to 10 percent in subjects such as mathematics and biology to accommodate them.
In addition, LAS also added more seats this semester with the launching of its Global Studies Initiative, a series of seven 100-level courses with an aggregate enrollment of about 1,400 students. The courses count as general studies credits. This semester’s offerings include classes in anthropology, economics, geography, history, political science and sociology. The classes will meet communally in Foellinger Auditorium on several occasions during the semester to hear guest speakers who will discuss themes common to the various subjects.
“Some of these courses were on the books before, but some are new and some are newly formulated to be dedicated to freshmen this year,” Mester said. “Last year, because we had a huge freshman class, we had changed course delivery in some courses,” dropping discussion sections from some courses and adding large, faculty-taught lectures where appropriate.
Last year, those large lectures were filled only to about 75-80 percent of capacity, spaces that LAS utilized this year to accommodate the flood of freshmen.
By offering additional course sections in high-demand areas, launching the global studies series and increasing enrollment in the large lectures, the college increased its capacity by about 700 seats this semester, Mester said.
Teaching assistants also were added in some departments, but another lean budget year meant that some departments only maintained their number of TAs – even so they were happy not to lose any, Mester said.
In anticipation of a larger freshman class this fall, LAS expanded its summer 2004 enrollment by about one-third, particularly in high-demand areas such as biology, for which capacity is contingent upon the availability of lab space. The additional summer courses were especially advantageous to upperclassmen who would have been competing against freshmen for seats in those courses in the fall and would have been excluded from sections designated for freshmen only.
Likewise, the Housing Division began preparing for this semester’s influx of freshmen more than a year ago, by shortening the time returning residents were able to make room reassignments on the Web for fall 2004.
“It usually goes about a month into (the spring semester), and this year, with plenty of notice, we ended before winter break,” said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of marketing for Housing. “We tried to limit our returning numbers that way. Anybody who wanted to reassign was welcome to reassign, but we didn’t leave it open for everybody to mull it over and then decide. That got us just enough of the wiggle room that we needed.”
This semester, about 227 students wound up in temporary housing, staying in extra rooms in the dorms that are equipped the same as regular rooms – with locking doors, closets, phone lines and Internet connections – but are generally used for lounge areas when not accommodating residents. Students in temporary housing are being reassigned to permanent rooms as spaces are freed up by students who drop out. Consistent with prior years, Housing staff expect attrition to free up approximately 200 permanent spaces this semester.