Harvey Mudd well ahead of student body growth goals, causing concerns

Harvey Mudd College has 893 students currently enrolled, which is well ahead of its target of 850 for this academic year. (Courtesy of WikiCommons)

With 893 students currently enrolled, Harvey Mudd College is well ahead of its target for expanding the student body, resulting in concerns over how the level of growth is affecting students, according to a report released in January 2019. 

Under its plan, the school should have enrolled 850 students this academic year, according to the school’s website.

In the 2013-2014 academic year, HMC had an unprecedented and unanticipated response to offers of admission and enrolled more students than originally planned for the class of 2017, according to Judy Augsburger, HMC’s spokesperson. 

There was another smaller bump in the 2018-2019 academic year for the class of 2022 due to a “lower than usual rate of summer melt” — students who enroll in May but do not attend school in September.

“Overall retention has been higher than previously modeled so our total student body numbers have grown faster than originally anticipated,” Augsburger said in an email. 

The college still plans to grow to 900 by 2023, according to Augsburger — a net gain of just seven more students.

But the level of current growth has resulted in “areas with evidence of concern” outlined in the report, which examined resources, workload and student experience.

The report indicated that the growing student body may be placing “stress” on “student-facing support systems.”

In preparation for a five-year assessment in 2019, faculty, administration and board of trustees agreed on a set of “growth indicators” that would indicate if growth presented challenges, according to Augsburger. 

These included faculty-student ratio; numbers of reappointment, promotion and tenure cases; square footage of residential space per student and endowment per student, according to Augsburger. 

Students reported decreased satisfaction with access to psychological support, and the number of students using Academic Excellence tutoring increased 40 percent from 2011-2012 to 2016-17, according to the assessment. 

ASHMC President Kyle Grace HM ’21 declined to speculate whether decreased satisfaction with access to psychological support was an indicator of growth, but spoke about student unhappiness with mental health resources.

“There’s definitely a lot of student frustration and some need for more psychological and mental health support,” Grace said. “I don’t necessarily know if that’s a direct result of the growth plan, because I think it’s always been an issue.”

HMC is taking various steps to alleviate the pressures of its expanding student body.

Mudd opened its Drinkward Residence Hall in fall 2015, and plans to open up a second new dorm in 2023, according to HMC’s website.

The new residence hall is a “key fundraising priority” in their main fundraising campaign. HMC plans to fund new residence halls through a combination of 75 percent debt and 25 percent gifts, according to the HMC site.

The plan for the new dorm was not only to provide housing for the growing student body but also to allow the school to cycle out dorms for renovations, Augsburger said, adding that the expansion has not presented housing issues so far.

HMC is also nearly doubling the amount of Division of Student Affairs staff, including adding five staff members who live in residence halls, according to Augsburger.

The school also added two new positions in the Office of Academic Affairs: the new student support position of assistant dean for academic affairs, who works with the associate dean as a resource for students in need of academic support and guidance, and the director of educational accessibility, according to Augsburger. 

Additionally, the college expanded new student orientation programming and training for student proctors and mentors, she said. 

The report indicated that the school is coping well with the increases in other areas. These included student-faculty ratios that were at or below 8:1 through the 2017-2018 academic year, an average class size of 21 and no decrease in student satisfaction with HMC, according to the report. 

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