Increasing Student Population Equals Changes at BU
May 6, 2011 marks the last day of the semester. Already, admissions personnel have begun looking at applications of those looking to attend Bloomsburg University. Some students have already been accepted, but the process for accepting freshmen will continue through spring semester. In the meantime, the growing popularity of the campus raises worry for current students, as they fear how these changes will affect the university.
This year, the university accepted 2,479 freshmen for fall 2010, about 90 more students than the university admitted in 2009, according to Director of Admissions Chris Keller. Previously, in the fall of 2009, the university accepted about 2,389 incoming freshman, approximately 100 more students than the university admitted in 2008.
While the freshman class has only increased by about 100 students in the past year, there is a 597-student increase in the overall student body, according to Bloomsburg University President David Soltz.
“That number has to do with the growing retention rate,” he said. “There are more students staying at the university year after year.”
It is likely that the numbers will continue to rise as the university grows in popularity. With that being the case, there are going to have to be changes made at the university, as the large student population will affect the way the university operates.
Scheduling and Class Size
Scheduling has become a concern for the university, as the increased student population led to classes filling more quickly, making it difficult for students to get the classes they want and need.
“It’s not fair the way they handle scheduling,” said Leigh Lukashunas. “Freshman are the first to schedule because they get block scheduled into their classes.” Because this year’s freshman class exceeded previous years, classes filled quicker than usual.
Part of the problem is that a large amount of students are entering Bloomsburg University at the same time that many professors are retiring, throwing the student to teacher ratio off balance.
“It increased, on average, by about one,” said Soltz. “We were from a little over 20 students [in each class] to a little over 21.”
Currently, the university does not have enough professors to keep up with the class demand, but the university’s president said the university is doing what it can to accommodate the students and keep class sizes small enough to retain the close-knit learning experience that the university is known for.
“We’re not hiring as many tenure-track professors,” said Soltz, “but we are hiring a lot of temporary professors for one year at a time. It is not desirable, but we are doing it because we don’t have a large enough budget to hire as many [full-time] professors as we’d like.”
One of the largest issues the university is facing with the growing population is housing. This year, there were 2,100 freshmen that needed on-campus housing. While the large number makes an impact on its own, Director of Residence Life Kresch said it is not the only issue.
“It comes down to two things,” said Kresch. “There’s not enough housing for our demand because the demand comes in two ways. Fifty percent of the issue is incoming freshman; the other fifty percent is upperclassmen who choose to stay on campus—because we don’t force them off.”
When comparing the numbers, more students are coming to the university that need housing, and less upperclassman are moving off-campus. With so many students demanding on campus housing, there are fewer places to house them, which means changes are going to have to be made. The university plans to fix the issue by tripling more students.
Due to the growing student population, at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, about 397 rooms (or 1,191 students) were tripled, forcing students to share the already small 12×16 foot rooms with two other roommates.
“I hated being tripled,” said freshman Joe Fisher. “I don’t think there should be triples; the reason being that there is definitely not enough room, and there are too many attitudes and personalities within a confined space.”
Throughout the semester, several students have been given the opportunity to de-triple. Most students accept the offer, but some decline the offer and stay at their current location. According Kresch, about 30 percent of students choose to remain tripled each year. Currently, 270 rooms are still tripled. Eighty of them are voluntary.
“There are a few reasons why some students [voluntarily] remain tripled,” said Kresch. “For some, they have already settled in and get along with their roommates. They know if they move, they will have to start over. And some students do it for the price break.” Kresch said three roommates in a triple pay the same price that two students pay for a double room, which is one-third of the regular room rate.
To alleviate some of the congestion, earlier in the semester, Residence Life turned some of the residence hall study lounges into living spaces for students. Kresch said the downside was that the students living on that floor had no area to study.
“There is definitely a lack of housing on campus,” said Soltz. “We would like to be able to house close to half of our population; right now we house about 41 to 42 percent.”
According to Soltz, the university opened the 544-bed Jessica Kozloff apartment complex on upper campus in 2009, which was designed to alleviate some of the congestion on lower campus. However, as the population increased, university officials realized that it is not enough.
Kresch said that upper campus can currently house 1,160 students and that the university plans to build on campus housing facilities in the near future.
“There are short term and long term plans,” said Kresch. Within the next 18 months, he said, the university plans to build another private complex, much like Honeysuckle, on upper campus near the Quest building. According to Soltz, the university is in the process of getting zoning changes from the Scott Township. If the university receives approval, the construction of the building will begin within the next few months.
The university will also be renovating current residence halls. Elwell will begin renovations this summer and will finished by the end of summer 2012. Longer term, the university is in the process of designing a mini master plan. According to Kresch, the university it looking for ways to get more housing, “perhaps by adding suite style rooms.”
While on-campus housing is a big part of student living, the availability of student housing includes spaces both on and off campus. Luckily, the town of Bloomsburg is expanding their options for students who want to move off-campus. Several private landlords in Bloomsburg will be opening spaces downtown for student housing for the 2011-2012 school year. According to Soltz, one landlord started construction for a new student housing development on the other side of Honeysuckle earlier this week.
“We are seeing that more good landlords are coming in and building units or renovating houses [for student living],” he said. While it does help alleviate some of the housing concerns, it is not a solution to the housing problem. Soltz said the university is going to cut down the number of freshman who will be admitted for fall 2011 to make living arrangements more comfortable for students.
Of the current students living on campus, 1,667 of them are parking their vehicle on campus. According to university police, the university issued 1,614 car permits and 53 motorcycle decals so far this year.
“More people are driving, so there’s more cars, but still the same number of spots,” said Director of Safety and Police, Tom Phillips. Realizing that parking could be a potential concern, Phillips said that the campus police are actively observing the parking patterns on campus.
“We’re looking to see if we need to realign parking—change one color lot to another—to allow more spaces. We looked at the numbers and haven’t had to change anything yet. There is nothing to make major adjustments on,” said Phillips.
For the students who live on campus, there are currently enough spots to accommodate everyone. “We have a few extra people in the dorms,” said Phillips, “but not enough to affect parking.”
Whether or not parking for residents will be a concern for the university in the future is unknown. As Phillips noted, many other state universities do not allow freshman to park on campus, and one day, the university might have to implement similar restrictions.
While parking is not an issue for those who live on-campus, other students say they have had issues concerning parking on campus, especially when it comes to finding parking spots on their way to school functions, whether it be class or a club meeting.
According to university policy, off-campus students are not able to obtain parking permission unless they are commuter status. While these restrictions are necessary in order to keep enough spaces for those who need them, non-resident/non-commuter students say some spots should be open to their use.
“Sometimes I have a lot going on. I will be in the middle of running errands and the only way to make it to class on time would be to drive straight there,” said Heather Higgins, a student at the university. Campus policy makes this almost impossible.
There are a few temporary, short-term, metered parking spots on campus for students to use, but they are only for a 50-minute max. Classes are, at minimum, 50-minutes, so utilizing the spots is often ineffective. Other parking lots on campus, such at the tri-level, do not allow parking to students until after 5 p.m.
Commuter students receive decals to park on campus, which gives them access to designated commuter parking areas. Even though they have this benefit, commuters say parking is still an issue. One student said that she was late for class one day because she had to drive around for twenty minutes before a spot opened up.
The increasing student population is the effect of Bloomsburg University being the university of choice for many students. Earlier this year, the university ranked as one of the best universities in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report’s annual ranking of U.S. colleges and universities. The report listed Bloomsburg University as number 88 of the Best Regional Universities for the northern region. “We have good programs,” said Soltz, “and that creates a good reputation.”
Soltz said he thinks it is great that so many students want to attend Bloomsburg University. The university’s main concern now is how to accommodate them all.