More students cause spacing problems
Preliminary enrollment numbers for Fall 2011 show that USC has added more than 4,000 full-time undergraduates in the past five years, and the unequal distribution of these students among the university’s colleges and schools has bolstered certain programs while creating space problems.
Scaling up incoming class sizes has been a tactic in USC’s strategy to counter state budget cuts. Increasing the number of students paying tuition allows the university to raise more revenue without having to substantially increase the amount each student pays in tuition.
The College of Arts and Sciences, the university’s largest division, saw its full-time undergraduate enrollment numbers increase about 18 percent, from 6,526 to 7,689. That’s a surge of more than 1,000 students.
The College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, the university’s third-largest division behind the Moore School of Business, saw its full-time enrollment numbers increase about 23 percent, from 1,497 to 1,834.
Brian Mihalik, dean of the HRSM school, said the numbers conveyed his school’s value to South Carolina. He said about 67 percent of his school’s graduates stay in South Carolina, feeding the state’s lucrative tourism industry, and that 81 percent are residents of the Southeast.
“Our career paths are in growth mode,” Mihalik said.
But, Mihalik said, the increased numbers also forced his college to increase freshman lecture class sizes. Freshman class sizes are so large that the HRSM school, headquartered in the notoriously cramped Carolina Coliseum, has had trouble finding enough large lecture halls to accommodate them. Mihalik said his college has responded by capping senior-level and most junior-level classes at 40 students, hiring 12 new tenure-track faculty last year and planning to hire seven new faculty this year, but he would still like more space.
“We’d move tomorrow if we could,” Mihalik said. “It would be a great for a new student union, for the Russell House South as I call it. It’s hard to recruit faculty into a place like this. We don’t see the light; we have no windows. It was a good place to play basketball almost half a century ago.”
The College of Engineering and Computer Science, the university’s fourth-largest college, saw its full-time enrollment numbers increase about 42 percent, from 1,218 to 1,730.
“The United States needs more graduate engineers than we’re currently producing, so the fact that we’re being able to take in more undergraduates, 90 percent of which are going to be U.S. citizens, is a good thing for us to crow about,” said Anthony Ambler, dean of the college. “Producing more engineers means more companies are going to be taking notice of us.”
Ambler said increasing class sizes, to a certain extent, goes hand in hand with that increased enrollment, but he said his college had been able to keep class sizes relatively small. Ambler said that research grant money went up 22 percent last year and 19 percent this year due to the increase national profile of a larger program.
“We’re able to show we’re doing the right things,” Ambler said.
In contrast, the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, the university’s fifth-largest division, saw stable enrollment numbers. Its full-time undergraduate enrollment numbers only increased from 1,354 to 1,392.
Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, said he wasn’t concerned about the numbers, saying his college had done a good job of recruiting the same number of students despite anxiety about finding jobs in the industry.
“The whole spectrum of the media industry has been going through a reorganization, or, more bluntly, it’s chaos,” Bierbauer said.
Bierbauer said most class sizes at the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies are limited due to the hands-on methods required to teach writing and reporting. The college also shares the Coliseum basement with the HRSM school and suffers from similar space problems, but, unlike the HRSM school, the college has an approved plan to leave the Coliseum in 2014 to inhabit a renovated Health Sciences Building.
“We’re not concerned,” Bierbauer said of his college’s enrollment figures. “If we saw a dropoff of 50, 60 or 70 students we’d be concerned.”