Concerns with Increasing Student Population at WC; Admissions Initiative May Threaten Small Class Sizes as Hallmark of Student Experience

By Katie Bedard
Elm Staff Writer

Over the course of the past year, Washington College President Kurt Landgraf has discussed plans to increase the overall student population size of WC. He, along with VP of Enrollment Management Lorna Hunter, is hoping to significantly reverse the decline in enrollment that was evident this past year.

It’s not unusual for students to get asked if WC is located in D.C. or Washington state. It has become a running joke among students and staff that the College is almost unknown to those outside of the Chestertown area. There’s a significant amount of people in Maryland who don’t know WC exists.

It’s therefore understandable that Landgraf would be interested in increasing the overall population size. Doing so would create more opportunities for the school to be recognized nationwide. There would also be more funds coming into the school.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to increase the College’s population size. When doing so, administrators need to remember to keep what makes coming here desirable.

It’s also understandable that Landgraf would be interested in trying to get more students, as WC has seen a slight decrease in class size, going from just above 400 students in the freshman class to slightly below it. It also appears that this enrollment decrease is not unique to WC.

“Many of Maryland’s smallest colleges and universities have seen steadily declining enrollment over the past five years, in some cases by double-digit percentages, straining budgets and prompting layoffs,” said Carrie Wells in her article “Some small Maryland colleges see large enrollment drops over five years” in the Baltimore Sun.

“The declines occurred even as overall enrollment in four-year institutions in the state swelled, driven largely by big gains in online students at University of Maryland University College,” she said.

An increase in enrollment could lead to larger class sizes. Small class size is a desirable aspect of life at WC that the admission’s department tends to advertise.

“The small class environment will give you a much greater opportunity to ask questions, participate in discussion, and have a professor who actually knows who you are,” said Jeremy Hyman and Lynn Jacobs in the article “10 Reasons to Go to a Small College” by US News.

Increasing the school’s population size without taking into account how that will affect class size, campus activities, and student-professor relations would make WC no different than other nearby schools like Salisbury.

One of the best parts of WC is that most classes fall under 30 students. This means that some of the largest classes offered are the equivalent of one high school class. On the lower side, a student might have a class that doesn’t exceed 10.

In no way should WC attempt to forever cap the number of students coming in. There is definitely a need to have more students coming into the school. It’s just important to remember that the campus itself and the staff size needs to be able to adapt to that population strain.

Washington College Admissions proudly advertises the small size of our student population on their website.
Washington College Admissions proudly advertises the small size of our student population on their website.

Creating more housing, buildings, and bringing in more professors would keep that small school charm that WC is known for. Since there would be more students, and therefore more revenue for the College, plans like this could be more realistic.

Maybe, after all is said and done, WC will the get the sort of recognition that schools such as Salisbury, St. Mary’s, and UMD get. Or, at the very least, it may no longer be confused with Washington University or Washington and Lee.

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