As the fall 2019 semester approaches, NC State is prepping to welcome an estimated 4,750 new students to campus. Enrollment at NC State has been gradually increasing in the last 10 years, calling for an increase in resources, infrastructure and consideration for the growing number of students now calling NC state home.
According to Louis Hunt, senior vice provost for enrollment management and services, NC State has been managing enrollment rates carefully during the last 10 years to avoid a repeat of 2007, when the number of students admitted was just shy of 4,800 students. Hunt said that the class size that year was simply unmanageable.
“Over about the last 10 years, starting with the strategic plan around 2011, we actually deliberately dropped the freshman class size,” Hunt said. “[Enrollment] had climbed very rapidly, from about 3,600 to almost 4,800 in just five or six years.”
Hunt explained that in 2007, NC State lacked the resources to manage the spike in enrollment. The class size target was then dropped to 4,250 in order to allow State to catch up.
“We want very slow and predictable growth, pretty small growth over time, because what we have learned over quite a long period of time is that it takes a while for the academic infrastructure to adjust, so you don’t want really abrupt changes in enrollment,” Hunt said.
Hunt said that by dropping the target for incoming first-year students, the university observed higher graduation rates, generally, and more students graduating in four years than before. Due to this, NC State increased their target in 2016 to 4,750 new first-year students, and it has been working well.
“We are pretty much exactly where we want to be, and it’s something we have been managing carefully for quite a long time,” Hunt said. “We have been surprised that our plan has worked as well as it has.”
NC State has changed dramatically in order to facilitate growth, as explained by Mike Mullen, vice chancellor and dean for the Division of Academic and Student Affairs.
“The biggest changes we have had to make is how we think about residence halls and how we accommodate our freshman,” Mullen said.
The university implemented its first-year live-on requirement in 2017, which ended up placing a strain on University Housing’s ability to provide residence to the incoming class, according to Mullen. In order to accommodate everyone, three floors of the University Towers apartments were rented out by NC State.
“For this coming fall we will have those three floors [again],” Mullen said. “This year we actually saved 5,000 spaces for incoming freshmen, but we hope we don't have to use all 5,000.”
Mullen explained that more beds are reserved than they estimate to fill because of the nature of first-year housing. The number of incoming first-years may fluctuate to be greater than the estimated 4,750 due to the enrollment process.