HMC to Increase Enrollment to 900

After discussions with students, faculty and staff, the
Harvey Mudd College Board of Trustees unanimously voted Nov. 1 to expand HMC’s
student body to 900 over the next decade, with a comprehensive assessment of
growth to date planned at the five-year mark. 

“I was so proud of the Board; they
were so thoughtful and so interested in how students, faculty, alumni, and
staff thought about [expansion],” HMC President Maria Klawe said. “That,
plus the vote on the campaign, those feel like the two most important votes
that have happened while I’ve been president.”

The decision to expand came in the
wake of student and faculty meetings, student and alumni surveys, and community
e-mails discussing the effects of expansion. In an e-mail sent out to the HMC
community, Board of Trustees Chair Wayne Drinkward HM ’73 outlined four main concerns the Board of Trustees considered: the decision process; communication; college culture; and resources for faculty, staff, and students.

“There was a lot of weight given to
those issues, and as we go forward we’ll work specifically on those areas,”
Drinkward said in an interview with TSL.

Drinkward noted that in the past, resources were not always present, and the expansion of the student body was constant but

“It’s not so much that [expansion] is a new idea—in fact the college has been growing every year
without having a plan,” he said. “That’s been a steady, incremental thing, and
there was never a real discussion about it.”

The Board of Trustees meeting in Palm Springs included nine
students, 16 faculty members, the president’s cabinet, eight alumni, and approximately
30 trustees. 

Sean Messenger HM ’15, who attended the retreat, said, “I figured, especially after talking to President Klawe and the trustees, that they had put a lot of thought into it, both on the research side and discussing it with each other. We have been growing at the same rate that the proposed growth is, and I think it’s good to be planning for it.”

“We’re really committing to do a great job of getting the resources in place,” Klawe said.

Klawe said that she and the trustees
have extensively discussed expansion largely because of the overwhelming
interest shown by students and faculty members.

“The passion that people feel is
only because they love the place so much,” she said. “Nobody is trying to be a
difficult person; absolutely everybody is trying to do the right thing for the

Some students expressed that although they had an opportunity to voice their opinions, they felt the decision had already been made. 

“Based on those dinners and the attitude in the room, it seemed like it [expansion] was already decided, from what I’ve heard,” Ashka Shah HM ’16 said, referring to dinner events Klawe held to discuss the proposal. 

“And now there’s nothing we can do, so people are accepting it,” Shah added.

Both students and faculty have expressed concerns about how expansion might change HMC’s unique culture, which centers around the close relationship between professors and students and emphasizes a small, connected, residential community.

Addressing these concerns, Drinkward said that although he graduated from HMC in 1973, when the school’s
population totaled around 300 students, “a lot of the elements that I value are
the same ones that are there now.”

The Board of Trustees discussed the results of the September alumni survey on expansion and the student survey
conducted by the Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College. During the retreat,
many students and faculty members also discussed their experiences at HMC.

“The most inspirational thing you
can have happen at HMC is to have the faculty and students talk,” Klawe said. “They’re so
amazing and compelling.”

The college already knows that the number of online applications for the prospective students of the class of 2018 are up 30 percent from this time last year. Early decision applications are up 16 percent.

“There’s increasing demand for our
education, and I wouldn’t want to grow if I genuinely thought we would destroy
any of the magic, but I think if we do it very slowly and carefully, we can
preserve the experience for our students and our faculty,” Klawe said.

Along with the vote to expand the student body, the Board of Trustees also approved plans for a much-needed new residence hall, according to the e-mail sent by Drinkward to the
HMC community. Currently, some HMC students must live off campus due to the limited
housing capacity.

“We need a new dorm right now, even
if we don’t grow,” Messenger said.

Now that the plan for expansion has
been officially approved, it will go to the Board of Trustees’ Budget and Finance Committee for the January Board of Trustees meeting to discuss expansion in the context of the school’s overall budget.

“It was exhausting, but pretty
wonderful,” Klawe said. “I’m pretty optimistic that, now that the decision’s
made, we will all get behind it and move forward.”

In its meeting in Palm Springs, the Board of Trustees also unanimously approved HMC’s fundraising campaign objectives and target fundraising amount.

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