First-year class sizes increase, univ. must address issues that arise

February 2, 2018

At the faculty meeting on Jan. 26, Dean of Admissions Jennifer Walker presented statistics on the class of 2021. They announced that 858 students had matriculated. The size of the first-year class has been increasing in recent years, but Brandeis’ acceptance rate has hovered relatively steady around 33-35 percent.

For the class of 2018, the yield rate (the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend Brandeis) was higher than expected which led to a larger-than-expected class entering in fall 2014.

Larger class sizes mean that facilities for students, such as dining halls and study spaces, are not large enough to accommodate the student population. Walking into Sherman at 6 p.m. or Usdan at 12 p.m. and finding seating is almost impossible. We commend the university for announcing plans to include a large study space in the new residence hall which will help stem the crowds in the library.

As the student population grows, classes may increase as well, which limits opportunities for discussion between students and professors. Small class sizes are also a selling point of Brandeis for some students, as it allows students to forge relationships with their professors, as well as seek additional help if necessary.

Housing is, of course, a major issue. The increasingly large size of the first-year class puts a strain on the already overwhelmed housing system, where many students are stuffed into forced triples. Forced triples compound the stress of the transition from high school to college by cramming three students in a room intended for two. Students in the class of 2021 face the reality of cramped rooms more than in previous years, and if Brandeis continues to admit such large classes, forced triples will continue to be the norm.

Upperclassmen are not guaranteed housing, so with a larger undergraduate population, students who may have wanted to live in dorms all four years might be pushed off-campus.

The opening of the new residence hall, slated to house 60 more students than the Castle, will help, but still, if the school keeps growing each year, it will outgrow its housing. We recognize these questions regarding class size and housing are long-term and complicated; however, there are steps the university can take to address the short-term implications of a housing shortage.

We propose the Department of Community Living (DCL) take a more active approach to helping students find off-campus housing. This can be an especially helpful resource for students who begin their search after receiving a poor housing lottery number, when others have already signed leases for the next year. DCL can help students manage the stress that comes with securing a place to live. DCL has only one webpage on off-campus housing which lists a few useful questions to ask a landlord and tips about rent payment and leases. It includes links to generic resources for house-hunting, however, in reality, the way students often find a place to live is by talking to friends who live off-campus. There are landlords in the Waltham area who rent to students every year, and it could be helpful to list their contact information.

To make more students feel comfortable moving off-campus, we also encourage Brandeis to improve communications about the safety precautions available to students. For example, Escort Services will give students a ride to their off-campus residences if they need it, but how many people are aware of this?

We suggest creating an online guide with available resources and safety tips specifically for off-campus students. This could be made mandatory for students like the readings for study abroad, where students must confirm they have read a document. We know many will just scroll to the bottom of the page and click “read,” but this will make the resources more widely available.

Candace Ng, The Hoot’s layout editor, is a Community Advisor and was not involved in the writing of this editorial.

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