Strikwerda talks plans for student growth

TEMP ORARY February 16, 2012 0

Elizabethtown College’s strategic plan, a five-year overview of what changes need to be implemented both on campus and off campus in connection with the school, has been dissected and debated by over 500 faculty, staff, students and alumni since the end of August 2011 and is now in the stages of a first draft. One particular topic of interest is whether or not to increase the size of the student population from about 1,800 undergraduates and 30 graduates to a larger number.

Many of the schools near Etown have populations larger than that of the College, such as Franklin & Marshall College (over 2,100 undergraduates), Messiah College (almost 3,000 undergraduates) and Millersville University (almost 8,500 undergraduates), and many have plans to increase their enrollments.

It seems that 2,000 students is the number for which the College will be shooting. “We think that if you look at a lot of the other colleges that we’re competing with, more of them have over time moved up to be a little bit larger,” President Carl Strikwerda stated. “At the 1,850 we’re at now we’re probably a little bit smaller than a lot of the other institutions. I think growing would give us a little bit more ability to be a stronger institution.” Other than the fact that residence halls will have to grow, the campus is able to support an increase of 150 undergraduates, and with the hiring of more faculty members, still retain a student to faculty ratio of 12:1.

While the general campus facilities should be able to handle the increase of students, one factor that could hinder growth is major-specific facilities and resources. Some majors are constrained by what space they use. If the College allows for too large of an increase in the number of students with a specific major, it could be a problem. This is because the College wouldn’t be able to support enough students with the proper resources. In addition, there most likely won’t be any new majors added in the near future. The reasoning behind this is that there are already many majors listed and these already could use enrollment in their program.

There are plans to increase the enrollment of international students as well, through communication between the College and foreign countries and an increasingly concerted effort to recruit students through pipeline programs. Other ways to increase the international presence will be done by making sure the school has a solid online profile and that the school offers more teaching of English as a second language.

While increasing the number of students enrolled in the College is seen as important it is also a concern that quality is maintained. “I think we’d rather [increase the number of students] incrementally because the other concern that we have is that we keep quality. We’re not trying to grow in quantity by lowering our standards; if anything, we’d like to raise standards even more if we could,” Strikwerda said.

Specific numbers have been laid out for accepting students in order to maintain quality. The first draft of the strategic plan states that no more than 60 percent of first-year applicants will be admitted, while at least 30 percent of an incoming class should be first-generation students and 40 percent should be top ten in their class. The College is very close to all of these numbers already.

When Strikwerda first applied for college presidency, he had thoughts to increase the size of the campus in order to keep it competitive. After the first few months on the job he had a change of heart and realized that increasing the size of the school is not as important as maintaining quality. “I would say the strategic planning process for me has been one where over the last couple of months it’s had an impact on my thinking. I’ve probably changed my thinking on this more than anything. Now I’m back to the position where a little bit of growth can be a good thing.”

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