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High enrollment fuels changes on campus

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Oversized first-year class leads to chaos in Stav, housing

As the 2012-2013 school year begins, you might notice some changes around campus. From the freshly-laid sod and newly-paved walkways to extended Caf hours and a large first-year class, St. Olaf has a fresh new-school-year feel.

St. Olaf tries to keep the total number of students at about 3,000, with approximately 750 students in each graduating class.

“The goal is always to be in the high 700s. Sometimes we deal with little spikes,” said Pamela McDowell, director of residence life and associate dean of students.

As of Sept. 10, there were 3,144 students enrolled at St. Olaf: 722 seniors, 788 juniors, 700 sophomores, and 865 first years.

College admissions is both an art and a science. Admissions counselors must take into account both the acceptance rate to use and the expected yield rate of admitted students.

For the class of 2015, the yield rate was below average, but it is usually somewhere around 35 percent. This year, the college is experiencing what McDowell referred to as one of its “spikes,” which is why the first-year class is larger than normal.

St. Olaf is designed to house around 2,750 students on campus, and is currently at 2,702.

Rooms have to be left open because more students travel abroad in the fall than do in the spring.

According to McDowell, in order to provide on-campus housing for all first-year students, some changes were made. For instance, this year there are three more honor houses, providing more on-campus housing for students, outside of traditional dormitory options.

“St. Olaf is residential, and we would like all students to live on-campus for all four years,” McDowell said. “The number of students living off-campus is usually around 200, and this year there are 245.” This year, of students that applied to live off campus, a higher percentage were granted that privilege.

“2016 proved to be a little more challenging,” McDowell said. While Kittlesby, Kildahl, Hoyme, Ellingson and Mohn are traditionally used to house first years, McDowell had to be more creative this year. “I had to add a floor to Larson, which is the only time I have had to do that.”

Along with changes in housing came changes in the Caf.

The Caf is open half an hour later for dinner time, and there have also been changes in the salad bar, deli and fruit displays.

“We try to do things as seamlessly as possible,” said Randy Clay, board manager of Bon Appetit.

“I am really glad they extended the Caf hours for dinner,” Lindsey Andres-Beck ’14 said. “Lines have been long in the past, but never to the Cage before.”

The size of the incoming class was one factor in the change of hours, but this change has been talked about in years past. Having the Caf open a half an hour later is beneficial for athletes.

“With the amount of meals already made, the increase in the size of the incoming class did not require any large changes in logistics,” Clay said.

Most of the food is made from scratch, so making enough food to feed 40 to 60 extra people per mealtime did not require any major adjustments in quality. Also, since so much of the food is freshly made, portion control and food waste concerns make serving the extra people easier as well.

The large size of the first-year class will continue to have an impact on St. Olaf in years to come. This year’s high school seniors and Ole hopefuls, for instance, will be facing a more competitive admissions process than ever before. But, like always, change at St. Olaf will continue to provide the momentum for an ever-better future on campus.

jacobsoe@stolaf.edu