Administration minimizes enrollment expectations

KAATJE WEILAND

kpweiland16@ole.augie.edu

Curb your enthusiasm—after two years of strong growth office, the administration, as of yet, is holding the cards close to its chest and projecting that next year’s enrollment numbers will level off, according to recent data from the admissions office.

Though next year’s class size is unclear, the administration is building the budget off of an estimated 450 students, more than 30 students below the class of 2021.

Dean of Students Jim Bies said the budgeted numbers will continue to be “soft” through the next couple of months. 

“We’re dealing with early indicators right now because we’re still in the fall semester. And we’re projecting out one year from now for the following fall semester,” he said. There will be a more concrete number come February or March.

For perspective, last year the administration estimated a class of 460, only to end up with 481 students, according to Mirror archives. With one semester and summer still to go, there is time for numbers to rise.

The budget number refers to 450 new, first-year students. It does not refer to upperclassmen transfers, but Bies said upperclassmen transfers and retention are also vital to enrollment.

“When a student does enroll at Augustana, how are they supported?” he said. “It would be one thing if we had 500 first-year students every year and fifty percent of them decided to leave after their first year. That’s like having a first-year class of 250.”

Just because the budget will be based on 450 does not mean Augustana will definitely achieve that number, said Bies. It will take work with students and families, but administration feels that 450 is necessary to continue the momentum that Augustana experienced with this fall’s large class.

“We’re always eager to enroll good Vikings as we have in the past,” said Nancy Davidson, vice president for enrollment.

Horizons 2019 planned to grow undergraduate enrollment to 2000 students. However, as Administration tries to grow future classes, a question to consider is just how large Augustana should get.

“If we had another class that is the size of this current first-year class, we would find ourselves feeling some stress in relation to class size, class sections, housing and dining,” said Bies. “We hope we have those stressors, because those will really challenge us to consider how big do we really want to be?”

Many facilities on campus, especially laundry and exercise, are under stress, as reported in previous Mirror stories. 

“It’s something that we’re preparing for,” Davidson said. “And this year we created an additional living and learning community in Tuve Hall. I think the students are loving it.”

Distinguished scholars have already increased from this time last year. Before Thanksgiving break, 64 notable students appeared at the distinguished scholars celebration on Nov. 19. That’s up from 61 at last year’s breakfast.

Though Administration has had to cap enrollment in the past, that is not a concern as of right now for the next first-year class.

Bies attributes past influxes of students to Augustana’s academic reputation, academic rigor and a deliberate intent to keep costs for students as low as possible. Bies also said that the completion of the Froiland Science Complex was a key program enhancement for the university. 

Sophomore Alana Sesow said that Augustana’s academic rigor attracted her because she wanted to go to a school that would challenge her academically. She also found it to be a reasonably affordable option after academic and athletic scholarships. 

“I was drawn into the community aspect of Augie, both in the community as a whole and the cross country team,” Sesow said.

“I really believe there’s a reputation about Augustana that goes hand in hand with academic rigor and the academic challenge of the program, regardless of what major a student selects,” Bies said.

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