In the fall of 2010, the University of La Verne welcomed approximately 543 freshmen and 228 transfer students, bringing the total undergraduate enrollment to 1,894 students.
The projected enrollment for fall 2011 boasts similar numbers and a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,044 students.
Theoretically this influx means that the University, whose budget is strongly dependent on tuition, has much more money to spend on its improvement and expansion projects.
Given the influx of new students, increasing the infrastructure to deal with them is critically important.
Yet in a recent faculty meeting for the College of Arts and Sciences, it became clear that the University has not apportioned its available money in a manner that prepares for further increases in enrollment.
While we understand that increased enrollment also means increased expenses, we believe that the University needs to properly plan for further increases in enrollment to ensure that the students receive the kind of education that La Verne promises.
The University has been in a reactionary mode this year to due the unexpectedly large amount of students that enrolled in the fall.
Quick decisions had to be made, which included the hiring of full-time professors on one-year contracts. In addition, some current adjunct teaching positions became full-time positions and more adjunct professors were hired.
While the University clearly tried to handle this sudden enrollment increase by hiring more instructors, a few more adjuncts and full-time professors on one-year contracts will not solve the problems it faces.
More sections of more classes are needed, ideally taught by regular full-time faculty members.
This means more classroom space is needed, as well as more parking, more housing and expanded dining services to accommodate all of the new students.
Although a new dorm is being built, little else is being done to properly serve this larger student body.
The University’s general fund may be flushed with these students’ tuition dollars, yet this windfall is not trickling down to individual academic departments.
When enrollment shrank a couple of years ago, these departments were forced to tighten their belts, but now that enrollment has increased, department budgets have not.
With enrollment expected to increase again in the fall, the University needs to share the wealth with its academic programs in order to maintain its credibility as a small private institution.
Although the consideration of hiring more professors and expanding the campus to build more academic buildings is costly, the University may lose many of its current students if nothing is done.
Many of us chose La Verne because it offers smaller classes and a more personalized education than larger universities.
Without plans for expansion, class size will only increase further beyond its current state of overcrowding, majors will become further impacted, and students will begin to wonder why they are paying so much for a school that can no longer deliver the personalized education it publicizes.
The process of creating a budget is complicated, and it is understandable that the University is struggling to accommodate the current needs of both the administrative and educational departments.
However, it is clear that La Verne needs to look beyond the immediate future and be proactive rather than reactionary.
The students and faculty are the heart of any university. La Verne needs to take the necessary steps to expand and still offer its signature kind of education in order to keep its heart healthy and happy.