UCSB enrolled its largest freshman class to date this year, leaving the university with issues of overcrowding that could impact on-campus services such as housing, class registration and campus services.
While the 2011-2012 freshman class included 4,098 students, this year’s class jumped to an estimated 4,750 students, with two-thirds of freshmen in housing triples. Roughly 200 first-year students were turned away from residence halls and forced to find alternative housing options like Tropicana Gardens.
Director of Admissions Christine Van Gieson said the boost in enrollment is the result of conscious efforts by administrators to admit more students as current students are graduating in increasingly shorter amounts of time.
“We increased our numbers because we’re seeing more students graduating more quickly, probably because of the increased costs,” Van Gieson said. “The campus has known since spring that this could be a huge incoming class so I know they’ve been preparing for that.”
Despite the increase in enrollment of first-year students, Van Gieson said about 30 to 40 fewer transfer students were accepted than originally estimated.
Although Santa Catalina Residence Halls doubled the number of residential assistants to handle increased numbers, Santa Catalina RAs still handle about 85 students each whereas last year each oversaw roughly 65 residents, according to Jonathan Abboud, president of the Residence Halls Association. In addition, RAs in all other residence halls oversee roughly 60 residents each, compared to about 40 last year.
According to Abboud, freshmen who were refused university housing this year — due to both overcrowding and more spots being offered to continuing upperclassmen — will not enjoy their first year of college in the same way as many of their peers.
“It means a good amount of our freshmen class is not going to have the same experience as the rest of their class,” Abboud said. “They’re not going to meet the same amount of people … they’re going to be in I.V., away from all the other freshmen.”
Increased enrollment will mean more difficulties with class registration as students already struggle to crash and add required classes, according to Tejas Patel, an on-campus senator for Associated Students.
“There’s going to be a lot more crashers [because] we’re still using the same amount of space [and] the same amount of classrooms,” Patel said. “Class sizes are going to be the same but there’s going to be a lot more people that need those classes.”
Patel said there will also be no increase in the number of teaching assistants and section times, making the change difficult for faculty as well as students.
Second-year film and economics major Iris Megiris, who ended up crashing five classes last Spring, said increasing enrollment does not appear to be necessary since lecture halls are already overflowing with frustrated students.
“I don’t necessarily see the benefits of them admitting more students because it’s already hard enough,” Megiris said. “I’ve had classes where [many] students were lining the floor and there’s nowhere to sit. [I’ve] had to stand for the whole class and wait for such a long time to sign up.”
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young said the implications of increased enrollment also extend to services like counseling and health services.
“Obviously increased numbers will put increased strains on our services, but there’s no way to predict how that’ll happen,” Young said. “I’m most concerned with those critical services, like mental health.”
According to Young, campus service providers cannot make efforts to address growing student needs until administrators can assess how these services will be affected. Young said that the campus’s ability to adequately serve the student population is also limited by other factors like UC budget cuts.
“With increased numbers, there’s going to be more people seeking those services and we only have a certain number of counselors and certain numbers of staff,” Young said. “We’re excited and ready to get going but we do worry about our ability to respond to the need.”