Largest freshman class in decades causes concerns for some UMN professors

While administration are happy with the class’s academic performance, some professors say classes are crowded.

Gophers fans raise their arms to DJ Khaled's

Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Gophers fans raise their arms to DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” on Saturday, Oct. 21 at TCF Bank Stadium. The University enrolled 6,195 new freshmen this fall, on top of almost 2,300 transfer students, the largest class in almost 50 years.

Kevin Beckman

University of Minnesota officials are lauding its most recent freshman class, but its large size has caused problems for some professors.

The University enrolled 6,195 new freshmen this fall, on top of almost 2,300 transfer students, which put some strain on school housing, financial aid and certain classes, said Bob McMaster, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. The class is the largest in almost 50 years.

McMaster said the University typically sets informal enrollment goals, and every college overshot its goal this year. 

For instance, the College of Liberal Arts, which aimed to enroll about 2,450 students, enrolled 2,659, and the College of Science and Engineering enrolled 1,177 to its 1,150 target. 

“We over-yielded on our predictions, and that’s not a good thing to have,” McMaster said. “One does not want to grow indiscriminately.” 

Professors in popular first-year classes said the number of freshman has caused minor issues. Nicholas Hopper, a professor in computer science and engineering, said enrollments in computer science classes at all levels have risen around 5 to 10 percent a year for the past several years. 

“These classes are certainly crowded and we do not have instructional lab spaces to accommodate many more students,” Hopper said. 

Anthony Young, an astronomy professor, said while entry-level astronomy courses typically see around 50 students, some this fall were packed to nearly 100. 

To compensate, Young said instructors have broken up classes into more lab groups of smaller sizes.

McMaster said University departments, like University Housing, made efforts to adjust to the uptick in freshmen enrollment.

The University extended leases for two additional years with off-campus apartments to accommodate the extra freshman – 88 percent of whom live in University housing.

“We’ve been able to squeeze everybody in,” McMaster said. 

The University also opened Roy Wilkins Hall to more freshmen, he said, when in a typical year it houses just a small number of freshmen.

He added that while the school isn’t anticipating any deterioration of educational quality, enrollment administrators will take a closer look at freshman class size in the future. 

“Sixty-two hundred students every year might cause strain, so we have to be careful,” McMaster said. “We have to think about how big we want these classes [to be] in the future.”   

Freshmen highlights

In addition to being the largest class in several decades, the University boasted that this year’s freshman class also had some of the highest ACT scores ever.

The class average score was 28.4 — the highest in school history. The high school class rank of incoming freshman was about 87 percent, McMaster said.

“It was a terrific year for us,” he said. “We hit the grand slam.”

Just over 62 percent of incoming students listed Minnesota as their home residency. Around 15.5 percent came from reciprocity states and 15.8 percent came from nonresident, non-reciprocity states.

About 23.2 percent of this year’s class were students of color, up from 22.3 percent in 2016 and 19.5 percent in 2012.

Due to federal law, there is no specific goal for diversity recruiting, McMaster said, but the University recruits in high schools with underrepresented populations.

International students made up just over 6 percent of the incoming class with 43 countries represented.