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As college application and acceptance season starts, millions of high school seniors from around the country are painstakingly trying to decide what university they want to call home for the next four years. Many factors go into making this decision: some people choose a university based on where their family members went, others choose based on academic opportunities, and for those choosing between two close competitors, even factors such as athletic success and geographic location figure into the equation. In the past five years, Baylor University has thrived in all of these areas.
It is no surprise then, that this year’s freshman class is the biggest in history. The jump in attendance shows that Baylor is becoming an all around better university. However, this boost in class size poses several problems for the university as well. While having a larger interest in Baylor is a positive advance, admitting a larger number of students instead of admitting a better quality of students means that there are no longer enough dorms to hold all freshmen, small classes become large lectures, and the school as a whole loses its small private school appeal.
In order to lessen these effects, Baylor’s admission criteria should be made more difficult.
In the 2014-2015 school year, there are fourteen on-campus housing options available to freshmen made up of five freshmen only dorms and nine living learning communities that are open to upperclassmen as well. With 3,625 freshmen at Baylor this year (baylor.edu) this means that each dorm must be able to hold approximately 300 students which, after factoring in the amount of upperclassmen that live in the living learning communities, is not possible.
Due to this overbearing number of students, the university has had to make last minute arrangements such as converting study rooms into six-person bedrooms and opening up off campus apartments to firs year students. If this trend continues, it’s likely that freshmen will be allowed to live off campus in the next few years. Required on campus housing for freshmen is one of the many things that makes Baylor unique. Being away from parents and having all of the responsibilities of living on your own, yet having access to upperclassmen and adult leaders such as CL’s and residence hall directors helps make the transition from living at home to total independence much easier. In addition, living in a dorm helps you make friends and surrounds you with other students going through similar experiences. If freshmen were allowed to live in apartments off campus, they would be missing out on a large part of the freshman experience.
In addition to its traditional freshman year experience, a larger freshman class size means that the amount of students in each class will increase as well. One of Baylor’s largest selling points is that although it has the athletics and academics of a large state school, its class sizes are small and personal. With each class averaging twenty-seven students, and a student to professor ratio of fifteen to one (baylor.edu), students are able to get personalized help and develop memorable relationships with their professors. This personal feel is what helps draw successful students to Baylor rather than schools like the University of Texas at Austin, where over a quarter of the classes hold over fifty students (U.S. News). However, this trend appears to be carrying over to Baylor in recent years. With so many students registering for classes each semester, classes with thirty or fewer students fill up within the first few rounds of registration, meaning that hundreds of students are left with no other option but taking large lecture classes with around three hundred students. In environments such as these, it is nearly impossible to develop relationships with professors, and class discussion feels discouraged.
With serious problems like these, it is apparent that a solution is necessary. Unfortunately, there is no one perfect way to solve the problem but there are many steps the university could take to both help its students receive the ideal freshman year experience and promote its small school feel. One way to achieve this goal is to shrink the class size of the incoming freshman classes at Baylor by making the admissions criteria more rigorous. Baylor University currently has an acceptance rate of 57.5%, meaning that over half of the people who apply to the university are given the opportunity to attend. Universities purposefully accept more students than they can hold because they know that not everyone who is accepted to the university will choose to attend it. Because of recent academic and athletic recognition, the amount of admitted students that choose to go to Baylor has risen dramatically, causing the freshmen class to be larger than ever. In contrast, TCU has an acceptance rate of 48.9%, and it has around ten thousand students (tcu.edu). One way that TCU makes its application process more challenging is by including essays in its application. In order to apply to Baylor, prospective students only have to fill in standard personal information about themselves and their high school achievements. By adding an essay to the application process, Baylor would be able to get a better grasp of the academic abilities and personal attributes of its applicants and choose a smaller, higher quality group of students to admit each year. In addition to requiring an essay, it would also be effective to raise the average ACT and SAT scores of students that are admitted. This not only works to uphold Baylor’s prestigious reputation, but also helps keep the number of students admitted under control.
In addition to addressing the academic issues with Baylor’s class size, the university could fix its already present problem of on campus housing shortages. The largest Baylor dorm, Ruth Collins Hall, is only six stories high, while schools like the University of Alabama have dorms that are twelve stories high and house around one thousand students (housing.ua). One major issue with construction is finding space to build new buildings. Most buildings on Baylor’s campus are built pretty close together allowing no room for new construction. Because of this, new dorms for freshman residents would have to be built on the outskirts of campus. Locations like these would make student’s walks to class significantly longer and make the campus more difficult to navigate. All in all, Baylor is growing too fast for the size of its campus.
Factoring all of these opinions into the equation, it appears that the simplest solution to the problem of Baylor’s increasing class size is to admit a smaller number of students. Students living in dorms not only give more money directly to Baylor, but it also creates a sense of community among each freshman class. Additionally, smaller classroom sizes give the school a more personal feel and contribute to the academic success of students. By making the application process more difficult and accepting a higher quality of students, Baylor will continue to maintain its small private school feel while continuing to be academically successful.
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