WCU has received a record number of freshman applications for Fall 2009, leading the admissions department to implement a wait list as a way to evaluate the over 11,500 prospective students applying to the approximately 1,500 allotted spaces.
According to Dr. Fred Hinson, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, WCU has raised admissions requirements as a means of coping with the increased numbers. Freshman applicants are now encouraged to have a high school GPA of 3.5 or better. The minimum accepted SAT score went up 16 points last year to 1038, and was further increased this year to 1042, though Hinson stated that that number may increase another “three to four” points as the admissions process continues.
Applicants falling just below the new admissions standards will be placed on the waitlist and some will be accepted to the Academic Success Program, a program designed to help new students make the transition to college. ASP participants will begin taking courses in summer 2009 and will be required to maintain a GPA of 2.0 before enrolling in fall 2009 classes.
For non-freshman, the biggest noticeable impact of WCU’s increasing admissions, in combination with state-mandated budget cuts, will be changes to class size.
“Size of classes will increase and sections will decrease,” Hinson said.
In the past, freshman-level courses averaged 20 to 22 students, where as fall 2009 classes will hold 25 to 30 students. Hinson stated that the increase will be “no more than five or ten more” as class size is still limited by the number of desks that will fit into WCU class rooms.
“In comparison to other state institutions, that is still a small class,” Hinson said.
Hinson does not anticipate that upper classmen needing freshman-level courses to graduate will have any difficulty getting a seat, stating that in the past, it “has not been a problem.” Upper classman trying to get into freshman classes are encouraged to pre-register and to go by the One Stop if they encounter problems.
“Come by the One Stop; come see me. Ask questions so we can help you. This is the place to come if you have any problem,” Hinson said, adding that he feels some students do not come to the One Stop with their concerns, leaving him unable to help.
In the event that an upper classman needs to be added to a full freshman-level class, the student is advised to visit One Stop as soon as possible. The department head for the course will survey the registry for lower classmen who do not require the class for that semester. A lower classman may be removed and given a guaranteed spot for the next semester.
“This is a system that requires students to help other students and I think that’s one of the things that makes WCU the place that it is,” Hinson said.
Hinson did acknowledge that campus parking will be affected by the increased enrollment. While expressing sympathy for the parking situation, Hinson stated that WCU does not have a parking problem on the level of other state institutions, particularly UNC or NC State where students are often required to take public buses to reach campus.
“We have been so spoiled here,” Hinson said. “We are used to parking next to resident halls and buildings, but we do not have a parking problem. We have excess spaces. Spaces are just not where we want them to be.”
Hinson advocated that students use the Cat Tran or the Jackson County Transit System to travel from parking spaces to class rooms or dormitories, mentioning that he himself often uses the Cat Tran.
“We need to embrace the Cat Tran,” Hinson said.
Hinson also stated that as of now there are no plans to increase the number of new freshman from 1,500. This is largely due to housing constraints. With the demolition of Leatherwood Hall this spring and the addition of Balsam Hall, a new dormitory for honors students, in the upcoming fall, the number of beds offered by campus housing in Fall 2009 remains even with Fall 2008’s numbers at approximately 3,700. Since freshmen are required to live on campus, the university does not want to increase the freshmen class size beyond 1,500 so that campus housing does not become limited for upper classmen.
Increased freshmen class size will also not correlate to an increase in tuition. Tuition increases are determined by the Legislature and the Board of Governors, and while tuition is increasing for fall 2009, Hinson stated that the increase is not related to the influx of new students.