When classes start next fall, UT is expected to welcome more than 8,500 incoming freshmen to UT, according to the provost’s office.
“This is the largest incoming freshmen class in the history of UT,” said Joey Williams, interim communications director for the provost’s office. “We’re working really hard to deliver the highest quality education to the largest number of students ever.”
David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and curriculum, said UT is able to enroll more students this year in part because increased four-year graduation rates have eliminated the “backlog” of students currently enrolled at UT, opening more spots for incoming freshmen. Also, more freshmen automatically qualified for automatic admission this year than in previous years, he said.
“There are more people who understand how they are supposed to use their four years on campus,” Laude said. “That’s much more solidified and cemented in the place that it’s supposed to be. Students are much more focused on a specific major that they have chosen as they arrive.”
Some freshmen do not declare majors, instead going into undergraduate studies until they pick a major. Brent Iverson, chemistry professor and dean of undergraduate studies, said they plan to increase the number of common freshman courses, such as UGS courses and FIG courses, so undergraduates can meet their requirements.
“I think the challenge we face is finding a budget model that responds to challenges like this while maintaining appropriate support for all students and all classes,” Iverson said. “We refuse to sacrifice education quality in the name of efficiency.”
David Vandenbout, associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Natural Sciences, said the college plans to offer more sections of calculus, biology and chemistry and increase the number of small learning communities because it had “ample” time to prepare for the increase in freshman students.
“Because more students are graduating within four years now, both the college and the university will see a shift to larger freshmen classes,” Vandenbout said in a statement. “We and the other colleges, in close collaboration with the provost’s office, determine how many additional courses to offer and in what areas, based on what classes freshmen historically take.”
Students can receive tutoring for many freshman-level classes through the Sanger Learning Center. Michelle Jewell, director of the center, said it will have to serve an increased number of students with limited funds.
“The system is really going to get really packed in the fall with the huge incoming class,” Jewell said. “I’m worried that we won’t be able to fulfill every request for workshops and outreach events. The nights that homework are due, we tend to get really packed and might reach fire-code capacity.”
David Spight, assistant director of advising in undergraduate studies in the Vick Center, said they expect to see more students seeking academic and career counseling.
“We’re going to see more non-UGS students coming and seeking help because they realize that maybe the major they got admitted to or the major they picked isn’t what they thought it was,” Spight said. “That’s where we’re going to see a real pinch.”