Whitman’s class of 2019 is smaller than expected because the yield from the main applicant and waitlist pools was lower than anticipated. The group of 364 first-years and 17 transfers fell well below both goals and expectations of the Office of Admissions given past trends, resulting in more space in residence halls this year.
“Last year, we wanted to have an enrolling class of 420…We’re about 39 students below the goal,” said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Tony Cabasco.
There was a shortfall in the number of students who enrolled in the class of 2019 likely resulted from flaws in the process of predicting which of the admitted and waitlisted students will enroll.
“The yield in the admitted students was lower than the year before, and we didn’t anticipate the degree to which it would be lower…the second piece was students on the waitlist…the yield there was also not what we had seen in previous years,” said Cabasco.
A small class size has ramifications for transfer students and college finances too. Tuition is one of Whitman’s main profit sources and with forty fewer students paying it, there is a need to address this revenue loss. Some colleges in this situation may cut financial aid to students, but Cabasco is confident that whatever tuition-related shortcomings the college experienced this year will not affect the amount of aid students receive.
“[The tuition shortfall] is not going to impact their financial aid award, and for incoming students we have awarded them this aid, and we are going to try to support them for the next four years,” said Cabasco. “The college has an enrollment contingency in case something like this happens… On the whole this year, there is not going to be a significant impact on the college’s budget.”
In addition to tuition losses, the smaller class size has influenced residency too. Since there are fewer students in the dorms, the students that are there have greater access to whatever rooms suit their needs.
“[Residence Life] could use some small doubles as singles for people who want them and some small triples as doubles, and we have what you call a vacancy rate, meaning if someone wants to switch rooms for any reason we have a room for them in each hall,” said Nancy Tavelli, Associate Dean of Students: Campus Life. “We just have, in the end, a little bit more space.”
Tavelli juxtaposed Whitman’s lack of incoming of students with Lewis & Clark College’s surplus.
“Lewis & Clark, for example, has 150 more first years than they expected…They used up all their lounges, they put up walls in all their lounges, and it’s not a good problem to have. You have to buy new furniture and hire new faculty,” said Tavelli.
A small class is still preferable to a class that is filled over capacity, but the Office of Admissions wants to use more personal talks and visits to attract prospective students to join the class of 2020.
“A lot of it is providing more touches, more personal conversations, more opportunities, and…to find [more] ways for students to visit here. We know a visit makes a difference,” said Cabasco.
The college administration seems to think that the class size of the class of 2019 is not problematic, and some students agree. First-year Tyler Maule seemed to believe that having a small incoming class size could be advantageous.
“I think it’s pretty perfect, even if it’s smaller than expected…I think that the smaller class size is much more conducive to build [the Whitman] community…and the fact that we might have an even smaller class than usual might make that even easier,” said Maule.