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MU enrollment at record high, campus tries to adjust

Monday, August 24, 2009 | 10:55 p.m. CDT; updated 10:59 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Students shuffle up the stairs of the MU bookstore to reach the back of the line to purchase textbooks on Monday, the first day of classes. Two separate lines for students making purchases and returning textbooks snaked through the aisles of MU-branded merchandise.

COLUMBIA – MU student enrollment is at an all-time high, according to a report released by the MU News Bureau on Monday, with 30,831 students enrolled on the first day of classes.

While freshman enrollment actually declined from 2008, a record percentage of students from last year’s freshman class — the largest in history — returned for their sophomore year at MU.

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The incoming freshmen class includes a record number of African-American and Hispanic students, the result of concerted efforts to increase campus diversity, said Ann Korschgen, MU vice provost for Enrollment Management.

The increased enrollment is in line with the three-year target for MU enrollment, as reported to the Board of Curators, of 32,345.

More students meant large crowds on campus, but businesses and departments made adjustments in anticipation.

MU freshman Chase Curtis, 18, described the lunch rush at Eva J’s, an on-campus dining hall, as “utter chaos,” but added that the staff was “really proficient for handling all those people.”

The campus bookstore reconfigured its arrangement to help reduce congestion.

“We added four cash registers upstairs … some more downstairs, and rearranged some things to make the lines move faster,” book store employee Megan Jaeger said.

Three new residence halls opened on campus — Dogwood, Galena & Hawthorn — but the MU Department of Residential Life looked again to off-campus housing to accommodate additional student demand, renewing arrangements with Campus View and Campus Lodge said Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life.

Although concerns about greater enrollment led Residential Life to temporarily deny housing to some returning students and incoming transfers, as more space became available Minor said the department allowed more students to live on campus.

Many large classes on campus are even larger, but academic departments have added more sections and support staff to satisfy demand.

The Office of the Vice Provost for Enrollment Management made additional funds available to the College of Arts and Sciences in response to last year’s “freshman surge” Michael O’Brien, Dean of the College of Arts and Science, said.

Enrollment in chemistry classes is up, said John Adams, associate chair for undergraduate studies in the chemistry department.

The department created additional sections for general chemistry 2 and to two organic chemistry courses — some of the most popular classes in the department. Also, Friday afternoon lab sections were added for the first time, Adams said.

The department benefited from “surge funding,” as Adams described it, which allowed the department to offer “considerably larger” graduate stipends to attract more Ph.D. students.

Growing class sizes do present logistical challenges, Adams said.

A lecture hall for organic chemistry changed twice to allow for more students, while general chemistry 2 is operating at full capacity.

The additional funding for the department comes with no promise of future funding, which also concerns Adams.

“We’re living off it now,” Adams said, “what happens next year, we don’t know.”    

Still, Adams maintains that the College of Arts and Science and the Vice Provost’s office, “keep on top of demand.”

Satisfying student needs is a priority for the university, O'Brien said.

“We know what students want, and we hire people to do it," he said.

Korschgen, for one, is confident that MU will be able to successfully accommodate the current number of students and planned future increases.

Supporting students is “an organized effort across campus,” she said.

But she said that has not always been the case.

Korschgen earned her bachelor’s degree from MU in 1971.

Compared to then, she said, “this campus is four-fold more student friendly.”


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