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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 05/25/2010

Many colleges over-enrolled for fall

By Valerie Strauss

Many colleges and universities across the country suddenly have a good problem: They are over-enrolled for this fall and are scrambling to figure out how to accommodate the extra students in classes and dormitories.

Catholic University in the District, for example, predicted it would welcome 850 freshmen but now expects more than 950, the largest freshmen class in the school’s than 100-year-old history.

Meanwhile, Dickinson College budgeted for 600 students and currently stands at 685; the University of Rochester is over-enrolled by about 30 students; Lafayette College, by about 30 students.

Lawrence University in Wisconsin had an initial target of 380 students, and now has deposits from 466 students and expects to end with 440, still 14 percent over target. And Tufts University had a target of 1,275 freshmen and expects to be well over that when all is said and done.

How does this happen?

According to Robert Massa, the vice president for communications at Lafayette and a longtime admissions dean at other schools, the answer comes down to one word: “nerves”-- on the part of students and the schools.

The bad economy of the past few years has changed the way families and colleges look at admissions, Massa said. It used to be that deposits from students who had decided to attend a particular school came in at a predictable rate. But as the economy got worse, families with kids who had been offered spots in a freshman class would hold on to their deposit checks until the last minute.

The schools, nervous that they would not fill up all of their slots, went to their wait list even before the traditional May 1 deadline for students to declare their college choices. The result at a lot of schools is that more students wind up wanting to enroll than originally projected.

Schools find way ways to accommodate all of the students. At Lafayette, for example, lounges may be turned into dorm rooms, and some seniors have been given permission to live off-campus. Some institutions wind up buying modular units to house students, and in some cases, kids are put up in hotel rooms.

Schools do what they must, too, to make sure that there are enough seats in required courses.

At Lawrence, for example, Admissions Diretor Ken Anselment said that the school’s provost is asking additional faculty members to teach a small required seminar called Freshman Studies, which has a limit of 15 students per section.

“Obviously, it’s better to be ‘over’ enrolled than ‘under’ enrolled, but being this far over-enrolled brings its own set of challenges,” Anselment said.

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By Valerie Strauss  | May 25, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions, college enrollment, enrollment at schools, freshmen class, schools that are overenrolled  
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