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More Students: we must be doing something right

14 Sep Posted by in Academics, Business | Comments Off on More Students: we must be doing something right

This is, in the first place, a thank you note. Mason has this fall enrolled upwards of 1500 more students than we expected, and we seem to be managing the challenge fairly well. Lots of people have stepped up to help. Dean’s offices have arranged class availability and kept wait lists down. Faculty themselves have accepted larger classes (my own freshman class is 15% up from its normal size). I’m sure there is concern about the additional work and about impacts on learning, but there seems to be wide understanding that there’s a problem to be solved and limited funds available to add extra amenities.

So thanks, particularly to the faculty. I’m painfully aware that all this occurs in a context of stagnant salaries and other pressures. The result is, arguably, less bad than facing the current budget crisis would be otherwise, but there’s no question about the challenge involved.

We have more students because we had more quality applicants, at all levels; because yield rates were a bit higher than expected given the improvement in credentials; and because retention, both undergraduate and graduate, improved as well. New facilities and programs and faculty commitment to responsive teaching deserve great credit here as well.

We need a lot of thinking, of course, about appropriate steps for the future. We need to work with the Commonwealth to make sure that funding for in-state students matches the politically-stated desire to see more in-state students accommodated (our in- and out-of-state percentages held constant, which means growth in both categories). But at least there’s some real success to enjoy for the moment.

In the meantime — and obviously there are state systems in worse shape than ours — Mason has been cut $45 million in state funds over the past three years. Just fyi.