Flagler brings in largest class of freshmen

By Lauren Belcher | cbelcher@flagler.edu

This year more than 800 new students will enter Flagler College’s already crowded halls and dorms. This is the highest enrollment that the college has ever seen, leading to a few housing issues. Flagler College will hold a record breaking 2,400 students, with about 650 freshmen, 165 transfer students and 1,585 returning students.

According to Flagler College Director of Admissions Marc Williar, the college’s original plan was to reduce this fall’s enrollment to about 655 students with a total of 2,300 to 2,350 students. They estimated about 1,645 students would return and that would put them at a comfortable 2,300 students.

In May, the college looked at the advance deposits to estimate the number of returning students, and they were surprised. The number was far less than was projected. The college decided to admit more students to make up for the loss of returning students.

They assumed the late admission would bring in only a few students and that they would still be around 2,300 students. After admitting more students, they found that the number of returning students was more than they had thought.

Turns out, the advance deposits were not the best way to determine the number of returning students, since many people wait until the last minute to pay. They also found that more students accepted late admission than they had planned.

“A couple of different things converged together to lead to a pretty substantially large class,” Williar said. “It’s kind of like a Perfect Storm, several different events all happened … at one time, so all of the sudden now the enrollment will be over 2,400. It’s going to be a very large college this fall for Flagler standards.”

To fix this problem, Flagler College will be drastically reducing their admission this spring.

“Through natural attrition, graduation and reducing the size of the January class, we should get the enrollment back down to a more manageable number,” Williar said.

Some students are not worried about the increase in student population.

“It’s going to be good for us. I think it’ll be a nice experience. It’s something new. People will be more interested in the activities and sports, and more kids will come out,” said Cathy Cabrera, a transferring junior.

The biggest adjustment for accommodating the new students is housing. Even with the FEC buildings opening up this fall, there is a shortage of housing for the incoming students. The girls’ dorms are being reevaluated and will suffer some crowding, but the problem is most acute in the men’s dorms.

Some of the rooms in Lewis Hall are being tripled, and both dorms will experience overpopulation. But, the college still has a few students they couldn’t place in the dorms. In an attempt to alleviate this problem, the school is housing a few students in a local hotel.

“For the first time in the college’s history, we are having students that are boarding students, live at one of the local hotels in Saint Augustine,” explained Dean of Student Services, Daniel Stewart. “It was an option provided to about 12 male students to live at the Howard Johnson or to be in triples in Lewis, which we were trying to avoid. The college is not putting any rules and regulations in place, no supervision, no security; however, in a gesture on our part the college will be paying the Howard Johnson, so they don’t have to pay for housing.”

Senior and President of Phi Alpha Omega, Samantha Pflanz, said she feels bad for the male students who would have to live at a hotel.

“But at the same time, there’s no RA over there. There’s no type of security system, other than what the hotel has, but it’s the Howard Johnson … I would want some perks if I had to live over there. But, I also think they are getting a better deal than what everyone thinks they are getting,” Pflanz said.

The only other big adjustment will take place within the first week of school. Stewart said that the registration process will be stressful, but that class size will not be affected.

Instead of changing the student/teacher ratio, the college opted for adding more sections to the freshmen courses. They also added a few more adjunct professors to help take the overload. The area that used to be Molly’s Restaurant will now be a learning center, with any open Kenan rooms being used as teacher offices. Other problems will include space in the dining hall, parking and competing for classes.

“Flagler is starting to appeal to different people than it used to. We are offering more things, we have more places to put people, and we have this brand new student center,” said Pflanz. “St. Augustine is becoming more of a college town. We’re a very small school, that’s growing beyond its wildest expectations. I don’t want to see Flagler get really big.”

The previous enrollment record was last year in 2007, the college accepted 737 new students. The year before that, 628.

Because of the growth in the last five years, Flagler College had to move 2009 Spring Commencement to the amphitheatre. This ceremony is traditionally held in the gymnasium, but the gym can no longer accommodate the number of students and guests.

The future for Flagler College is to gradually reduce the enrollment over several years to get the total number down to about 2,200 students.

With this reduction, the dorms could be a comfortable fit and other problems would be alleviated as well. They would also like to see a more even ratio of men to women. Last semester’s ratio was 38 percent male and 62 percent female. The current ratio with the new students is 43 to 57. The number they would like to have is about 45/55, so they are closer to their goal.

“It was a major concern that this happened, and so we are very cognoscente of making sure this doesn’t happen again,” Stewart said.

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