BY: SEBASTIAN DUNCAN – STAFF WRITER
With 401 first-year students, the Centre College class of 2020 is the largest in history. Riding a wave of new scholarship programs, Centre’s successive classes are often touted as diverse and increasingly qualified.
Some of Centre’s upperclassmen have voiced concerns about the college’s population growth and its sustainability. However, according to Centre’s administration, an increase in student population was planned in advance and is a positive force on Centre’s campus. The enrollment growth is aimed at making Centre a more diverse and vibrant school, with greater national influence.
According to Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Bob Nesmith, a plan to increase school size has been in play for a while. “We have grown as a result of an intentional choice, dating back several years, to become a college of about 1,425 students,” Nesmith said. “That decision was reached through a planning process that included faculty, staff, students and trustees.”
Nesmith stated that Centre started enacting a plan in the mid-2000s that would increase the student population from 1,200 to 1,500 students. This growth would occur under the condition that Centre’s faculty, staff, and facilities could support a larger student body.
“In 2012, we evaluated our progress, our capacity, and our potential for further growth”, Nesmith said. “We determined that we could grow to around 1,425 students without major facility changes, and we judged that it would make Centre better if we could do so.”
The administration’s goal was to make the college a school of 1,425 students by 2016 or 2017. That goal has been met with the class of 2020, which has brought the student body to 1,430 students this fall.
“So, right now, we are ’at our mark’ with our current enrollment,” Nesmith said. “Our class goal for Fall 2017 will keep enrollment more or less stable.”
Nesmith believes that Centre’s growth in the past decade is an exciting and positive change for the college. A larger student population will increase the college’s potential for national and international influence, and it should improve Centre’s community as a whole.
“We are more vibrant, more dynamic, more talented, more diverse, and more national,” Nesmith said. “We have a broader array of opportunities, academically and extracurricularly.”
Nesmith also added that he thinks Centre’s new numbers will make “the work of [his] office easier, not harder.” “We are a more interesting, more engaging, more vital college community,” Nesmith said. Nesmith believes that Centre’s community will attract more talented and intelligent individuals to campus. This includes prospective faculty members in addition to students.
Since Centre has reached its goal for student population growth, the size of the college should continue to stay stable for the moment.
However, some adjustments have been made to deal with Centre’s larger student body.
According to Director of Student Life and Housing Ann Young, changes were made over the summer to accommodate the class of 2020.
“We [purchased] two houses for student use, and moved some staff members around to gain more student bed space this summer”, Young said. “If we continue to have the numbers we did this year, we will need to make some other accommodations.”
For the moment, student population growth won’t be an issue that the housing and facilities offices will have deal with in the near future. Since the size of Centre’s population will remain stable, there will continue to be enough space, staff, and faculty to support all of Centre’s students.
“I must admit, it was an incredibly busy summer; when you are as full as we are, any movement of students has a domino effect and you don’t just move four, you move eight, or twelve,” Young said. However, she has a very positive attitude to her increased workload.
Young views the increase in student population as a positive change for Centre’s community. “A large first-year class and a great retention rate of last year’s students is a great problem to have,” Young said.
Although the record-setting size of the class of 2020 has increased the workload for some staff working in facilities and housing, it has been mostly a positive change for Centre’s community.
Staff, faculty, and facilities will continue to support students as well as they have in the past.