A record number of MU freshmen began their studies Monday, with 6,160 students enrolled in fall classes.
That number represents a 9.6 percent increase over last year’s freshman class of 5,620, according to Ann Korschgen, vice provost for enrollment management.
The number of undergraduates rose to 24,759, and the overall MU student enrollment is 32,009, she said.
The rise in student enrollment is also accompanied by a bump in minority student groups.
The university has seen the increase in the past nine years, Korschgen said. The freshman population included 1,042 minorities, including black and Hispanic students.
Despite the additional freshmen, several students said Monday that they didn't notice any real difference around campus.
“The record for incoming freshman seems to get broken every year, so it’s not a big deal,” said Kevin Hooshmand, a 20-year-old MU sophomore.
He has noticed a few minor problems, though. “Memorial Union gets super crowded, and it is hard to find free computers,” he said.
Fellow student Kristin Dieterle, 20, agreed.
“Parking has been a problem for me compared to previous years,” she said.
MU's 6,400 residence-hall beds are nearly full now, with only about 30 spots left as of Monday afternoon, said Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life.
Of those beds, about 5,500 are occupied by freshmen and the rest by returning students. This was the first year transfer students were initially turned away, though they might be able to take advantage of the limited vacancies as Residential Life receives cancellations.
Mark Twain Hall, which had been scheduled to close for renovation this year, remains open to accommodate the record freshman class.
This fall, Stafford and Cramer halls will be leveled to make way for a patient care tower at University Hospital. Stafford is scheduled to be demolished beginning Wednesday and Cramer sometime in October, Minor said.
To handle the surplus of freshmen, about 100 of them are staying in Prunty Hall at Stephens College, and others are at the TRUE Scholars House, Tiger Diggs and Mizzou Quads.
"Our goal is to provide as much housing for the students who want it," Minor said. "Our first priority is going to be the new students who are making the most difficult transition."
New student center
The new $63 million MU Student Center, previously expected to open in spring 2011, made its grand opening ahead of schedule on Wednesday.
This building has five new restaurants, a fireplace, an entrance to the adjacent University Bookstore, and enough seats and tables to accommodate 600 students at one time.
The new restaurants include:
- Do Mundo’s Churrascaria for barbecue.
- Infusion Cafe, a bakery and coffee bar.
- Pomodoro Pizza and Pastas.
- Kate & Emma’s Deli.
- Sunshine Sushi.
Feedback from the students has been positive, said Michelle Froese, public relations manager for the bookstore.
The restaurants offer a variety of choices, including fresh doughnuts at Infusion Cafe grilled vegetable skewers at Do Mundo's Churrascaria and handmade sandwiches at Kate & Emma's Deli.
During the first week of school, the Student Center is holding several events to get students involved, including giveaways, free samples, music and more. On Thursday, the Student Center will hold a party to celebrate the arrival of MU students, and a formal dedication will take place in October.
Though student enrollment is up this year, Campus Dining Services is only slightly feeling the strain of serving more students.
The estimated number of customers served Monday was 23,000, said Andrew Lough, marketing manager for Campus Dining Services. Last year, 100 to 150 fewer students were served on opening day.
It takes roughly 175 full-time employees and about 550 student employees to staff the dining locations across campus each year, Lough said. At this point, Campus Dining Services has hired only 300 student employees but expects to be fully staffed as the year goes on, said Julaine Kiehn, director of Campus Dining Services.
The dining services budget, which includes food costs, staffing costs and supplies, was forecast in November to be $2,791,741 for the 2010-2011 school year, Kiehn said.
This covers the total cost for all operations from July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011. This forecast is lower than that of last year but will be revised in November, Kiehn said.
She expects the amount to increase because of the higher-than-expected number of students living in residence halls.
Storage for the large amount of food needed is not a problem for Campus Dining Services, since shipments are frequent, Lough said. Coolers, freezers and dry storage areas at each dining location receive deliveries from U.S. Foodservice, a supply company based in St. Louis. This allows the dining locations to serve fresh food at every meal.
The 23,000 customers looking for a meal can lead to long lines. At Plaza 900 dining hall, Megan Zagorski, a freshman, was waiting at noon Monday for the lunch line to die down.
“I chose to come to Plaza for lunch because I had a couple of free hours and it is really close to my dorm, Schurz,” she said.
Long lines at both the new MU Student Center and Plaza 900 are expected for at least the first couple of weeks of the semester, Lough said. Students, especially freshmen, choose to eat at Plaza 900 because they usually make a stop there on campus tours before they start school.
As the year progresses, students will start dispersing to other locations across campus, Lough said.
He does not expect the new dining options at the student center to affect the number of students eating at the dining halls because those who live on campus have dining plans, which makes them more likely to eat in a dining hall.
The purpose of the new restaurants at the Student Center is to provide more dining options for those who live off campus and staff members who might otherwise need to bring a lunch or leave campus to eat.
Amanda Rhodes, Matthew Dixon, Mary Daly and Whitney Fenzel contributed to this report.