For the past few years, Baylor has had record-breaking freshman classes. The class of 2016 had 3,739 first-year students and the following class had 3,707 freshmen. The class of 2018 was unexpectedly large, with 4,125 incoming students. With such large numbers, the College of Arts and Sciences has turned its attention to the faculty-to-student ratio in efforts to reduce it with the 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan.
The college is made up of 57 majors. In 2013, more than 46 percent of Baylor students were enrolled in the college. Of the variety of majors, there are three that are significantly more popular. These three are pre-biology, pre-psychology and neuroscience.
The number of first-year students going into these majors strains those departments. The plan will help moderate the number of majors in traditional prehealth departments as well as guide these students to other science majors with larger capacities. With these efforts, the ratio of faculty to students will become more beneficial for all. Large lecture classes, while necessary for some core classes, are not comparable to the level of education received in smaller classes.
The Undergraduate Enrollment Management vision for 2022 states, “Some, particularly larger departments, are oversubscribed. For faculty to offer outstanding teaching and mentoring to undergraduates while engaged in research and creative productions, manageable course loads, class sizes, and advising loads must be maintained.” Clearly, smaller class sizes are at the core of the quality of education at Baylor.
On Sept. 12, the college’s strategic plan titled A&Spire: Acts of Determination in Support of Baylor University Pro Futuris was released. The plan to shape majors was included in it; however, there is no mention in the plan for raising requirements in order to be accepted. The plan aims to draw students into other, less popular majors by offering more scholarships in those areas.
The growth of interest in Baylor means enrollment services have more room to pick and choose among the many applicants. The raising of standards to get into the departments in higher demand would create a more manageable freshman class each year. This is long overdue.
If the College of Arts and Sciences raises the standard for acceptances, it could seem unfair for future applicants. This could be translated as a restriction on their future and could also be a deterrent from even applying.
However, there are people who will advise students on the best steps to take when choosing a major. The college is not restricting the number of people in the majors, but this will be a side effect of this advising. This is a good plan, because students will be distributed over the available majors more evenly, allowing for more quality time with professors.
The growth of the freshman class has affected more than the classrooms. Campus residences have run out of space as well.
This year, more than 3,600 freshmen and about 2,000 upper-division students move into on-campus residences. Campus Living and Learning representatives even asked upper-level students if they would consider moving out for the fall in order to make room for the freshmen.
Baylor has a few options to solve the overcrowding in both classes and dorms. Hiring more faculty members in the popular majors could solve the student to professor ratio. If this is not feasible, the number of incoming students could become more stable with the plan to funnel students into other majors or by setting a cap to the number of acceptances.
However, all of the solutions fail to solve the issue of money in the popular majors.
A pivotal point in the A&Spire plan deals with distributing money into the various departments under the college. With a more even amount of students in each major, the departments could benefit from more evenly distributed funding.
Some might argue the funding is to be distributed based on natural student distribution. While this may seem fair, it overlooks the less populated majors in which students should still be entitled to the same quality of education.
Ultimately, the most logical solution for managing class sizes for the more popular majors is to be more selective of who can qualify.
This will prevent faculty from being overloaded as well as allow students to receive the best education possible at Baylor.