Class sizes increase after record enrollment

by Shara Tibken

Five tidy rows of ten line the room. Fifty people file in and take their seats. This incredibly large group of students is ready for History 101.

There is no denying that the enrollment at Simpson has reached record highs this year. As of Sept. 3, the number of students totaled 1441.

Although classes may seem larger, the faculty-student ratio has not changed much from past years.

According to John Bolen, associate academic dean and registrar, the ratio in past years has been 14 to 16 students for every professor. This year, there are about 16 students for every full-time faculty member.

Bolen said that of the 617 sections of classes being offered, only 77 had 30 or more students. 104 sections had between 20 and 29 students, and 173 classes had between 10 and 19 students.

Although not many classes have more than 30 students, some classes may be larger than usual.

A History of Western Civilization course, taught by Joseph Walt, has 50 students. According to Walt, with over 300 students in History 101, it was necessary for him to teach a larger class.

“I was asked to teach two classes,” he said. “One class would have been in the afternoon which didn’t work for me or the students, so I have one big class.

How do students feel about larger class sizes?

“Being in a class that large is not as personalized,” said Sarah Clark, a freshman and student in Walt’s History 101 course.

Students may become uncomfortable in larger classroom settings, but teachers also face some problems.

“[Sometimes teachers have to] redesign some of the coursework,” said Susanne Gubanc, assistant professor of communications studies. “It’s pretty difficult to get all students involved in discussions and group participation.”

Since Simpson knew that enrollment numbers were going to be higher for the 2003-04 school year they began preparing during the summer.

More classrooms were created to accommodate students.

A room in the Brenton Student Center was furnished as a classroom, and two classrooms were added in Mary Berry.

The main concern of the Registrar’s office, however, is not class sizes but the number of students that each professor advises.

Bolen said that Simpson is always planning on hiring new faculty.

“We need more full time; [hiring more professors] is our intention,” he said. “Simpson has always had a very high level of support and service and a very high quality of support and service. We don’t want any student to suffer a loss in service.”

Students in Walt’s class might consider themselves lucky.

According to Walt, History 101 used to be taught as one big lecture class equipped with anywhere from 180 to 190 students.

Most students and teachers have tried to keep a positive outlook concerning the larger class sizes, considering Simpson’s classes are much smaller than those of larger universities.

“The large class sizes don’t affect my learning when compared to a class of 350 in state schools,” said Freshman Tonya Thomas.

Walt agrees.

“What may seem large here would be considered very modest at Iowa State,” he said.