Seton Hill University’s (SHU) rapid population expansion is the cause
of most of our issues. This place that used to be “where everyone
knows your name” is in danger of becoming a place where hardly anyone
does. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the growth that has occurred
at SHU since I was a freshman. It has brought great new opportunities
and diversity to our campus. My main concern is that it seems as
though the university has no intention of slowing down. How big are we
hoping SHU will get and why?
By Lorin Schumacher,
Senior Staff Writer
Seton Hill University’s (SHU) rapid population expansion is the cause of most of our issues. This place that used to be “where everyone knows your name” is in danger of becoming a place where hardly anyone does. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the growth that has occurred at SHU since I was a freshman. It has brought great new opportunities and diversity to our campus. My main concern is that it seems as though the university has no intention of slowing down. How big are we hoping SHU will get and why?
This year, the number of students enrolled at SHU has for the first time ever exceeded 2,000. Of course, this count includes anyone enrolled in any courses at all, even if it is only one class, so it is not as if we have over 2,000 traditional, adult-studies, and graduate students coming onto SHU daily to utilize our facilities. But, I think it is fair to say that we all have felt the repercussions of the rapid growth in student population over the last few years and they haven’t all been good.
The residence halls no longer fully accommodate the number of residents that we promise housing for, the classrooms are getting tighter and tighter (I had a class period last year in which I and at least two other students had to sit on the floor for lack of chairs). Art students have to go off campus for classes, and the dining hall gets crowded on rare occasions to the point where the dishwashers can’t clean the silverware fast enough and we run out of spoons.
The issue of overpopulation is not SHU is alone, many universities are having similar issues. What alarms me most are the solutions that are commonly presented. When people say that we don’t have enough rooms for people who want to live on campus the solution is to build a new residence hall. Not enough parking? Build a parking lot. Dining hall too crowded? Build a second. Not only are some of these solutions impractical, but I think they are missing the real point.
Sure we can always build new stuff to try to accommodate. I am not saying that building a new residence hall and providing more parking areas are bad ideas. I am saying that they are not going to solve anything if the university population continues to grow, especially so quickly.
We are a small, liberal arts university that has a lot to offer for a school of this size. That alone is the reason that I even bothered to come all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to visit SHU in the first place. I would hate to see SHU turn into a school that despite an increases in new facilities, actually has less to offer a student.
One of the reasons I worry about the university’s need to grow so fast, is that I know we must be sacrificing quality for quantity. We exceeded enrollment goals for this academic year, but we kept the rolling admissions coming in throughout the summer, already knowing that we were going to have to accommodate around 50 students at the Marriot, and triple up the freshmen honors students in double rooms in De Chantal.
The rolling admission policy has bothered me since I arrived at SHU. A friend of mine, who decided after three days at his first-choice university that he didn’t like it, filled out an application online for SHU. He was told that as long as he got his transcripts and tests scores sent before the drop/add period, he could begin that very semester. He didn’t really want to go to SHU, but SHU was convenient because they would let him in right away. Needless to say, this friend dropped out of SHU in the middle of his third semester.
Now, I’m sure the circumstances of this student’s arrival at SHU are atypical. I don’t know any others that applied after the year has started and were allowed to attend that very semester. But the idea that he was able to do it at all is very disturbing to me, especially since the fact that this student matriculated, but did not graduate from SHU. The retention rate at SHU is what we should be trying to increase, not the overall enrollment.
I think one of the best ways to do this would be to modify, if not dispose of the rolling admissions policy. If we had a deadline for fall and spring admissions, then we could review all applications and select the best 300 students.
I have noticed that the application now requires an essay where the applicant must explain why they want to obtain a degree at SHU. I know when I applied there was no required essay, just optional blank space on the back where applicants could write anything additional they wanted to share. I have confidence that the admissions committee pays close attention to this essay and has a knack for judging sincerity. But, it is still not enough to ensure that SHU grows better as much as it grows larger.
I know this job is easier said than done, and I know that even if a student is admitted to SHU that doesn’t mean they will actually choose to come here, so it is hard to predict numbers. And the admissions and enrollment policies and processes are probably more complex than I know. I would simply prefer to have a school full of 2,000 people who want to be here, than a school of 3,000 people who couldn’t care less if they were at SHU, St. Vincent, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, or any other school. I would rather the school spend effort on making the facilities and programs they offer the best, so that the students will love it as much as I do and have an incentive to stay.
That will ensure that we have good alumni participation in the future, which is what the school ultimately needs to run. Good alumni participation will give us the means to further improve the school , not an abundance of students who don’t really want to be here.