Enrollment growth at colleges and universities can be attributed to an institution’s advancements across a variety of platforms. While this boost is generally welcome by school administrators, more students on campus may require changes to accommodate everyone.
At Missouri State University over 700 more students are attending this year than last and about 2,500 more than five years ago. Many of those changes are evident through construction projects and the hiring of additional faculty and staff. But in areas not yet addressed, the influx of students is prompting strong consideration for change.
Let’s start with a common campus complaint: parking.
“I would say there’s some extra pressure on that [need for more parking]. Those extra 700 students have meant that unlike last year on many days this year Bear Park North has been full,” says Clif Smart, MSU president.
Smart says that as a result those overflow lots “have been fuller” but the locations are less convenient. He’s challenged the vice president of administration to evaluate parking expansion that could add “2 or 300 spots.”
He adds, “Can we better manage our shuttle buses? Should we have additional routes so that fewer people need to park now that more people are living in the area,” referring to multiple new student housing units adjacent to campus.
Earlier this year, the university also began looking into the feasibility of a new residence hall on campus. Smart says officials are considering two sites.
“The numbers from fall [enrollment] are consistent with we need more residential space, and so we do look to be moving ahead with that. And I think we’ll have a recommendation on that by the end of the year,” he says.
The obvious signs of completed changes to accommodate more students include new or renovated buildings, which often are directly linked to new or expanded programs. The O’Reilly Clinical Health Sciences Center helped alleviate healthcare program congestion elsewhere, and allowed the space for a Master of Occupational Therapy program, which in its second year has brought 48 enrollees. Another 60 students are participating in the cooperative pharmacy program, which started three years ago. Then there are almost 40 new students seeking a master’s degree in cybersecurity. Smart notes that typically the programs – which are in high workforce demand - come before the students.
“In large part a lot of our program additions have been at the graduate level, and that’s been one of the reasons that we’ve had enrollment growth is because people come to enroll in those programs – otherwise they’d go somewhere else.”
Space was also made for the hospitality program in Pummel Hall, which moved out of the Professional Building, a facility that can now better support the programs that remain there. Currently, crews are adding 40,000 square feet to Glass Hall to expand the College of Business. Ellis Hall is also being renovated to better accommodate the school’s Department of Music.
But by in large, says Smart, a lot of MSU’s growth has been online. Nearly 14 percent of all classes are offered online, he says, compared to less than five percent in 2011.
MSU has also hired over 50 new faculty positions in the past five years. There has been a slight rise in the number of students per instructor, now at about 19:1.
Then there’s the host of other areas to address with a larger student body that “you don’t necessary think of,” he says.
“Financial aid – the lines get longer. More people on scholarships – do we have enough people to deal with that? Student Affairs, Student Services; we’re also looking at adding services for transfer students now that we have more transfer students than any other university in the state.”
He notes that while it’s great to have the additional students and revenue, the school wants to make sure the proper infrastructure is in place to take care of them so they have a good experience while attending MSU.
Above, hear the entire conversation with President Clif Smart, part of our monthly program Engaging the Community.