Increase of student body raises questions on accommodation

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Lehigh is projecting to increase the undergraduate population by 1,000 students over the next decade as part of the Path to Prominence initiative. With the growing size of the student body, concerns have been raised about first-year students being able to take classes they desire and whether the university can maintain its low 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. 

According to two associate deans from the College of Arts and Sciences, it’s not the larger student body that’s causing difficulty with courses, but the new timeblocks for which classes are laidout. 

Susan Szczepanski, the associate dean for undergraduate programs, said the 75-minute time blocks for classes were implemented over the last year, eliminating the previous 50-minute blocks. She said there are only 12 time blocks before 4:15 p.m. as opposed to the 15 time blocks under the old scheduling system.

“Things seem to be a bit tighter for students to create schedules,” Szczepanski said.

Szczepanski said with the new timeblocks it is possible for students and faculty to have no Friday classes.  While having no class on Friday may appeal to some, this new system cuts out 20 percent of time previously used for classes, she said. 

Diane Hyland, the senior associate dean for faculty and staff, said Lehigh had been preparing a year in advance to adjust to a larger first-year class by looking at previous years and seeing which classes first-year students often took. Hyland said the  size of the class of 2023 was largely on target in terms of the goals the admissions team established, but shewas surprised by how those students distributed themselves.

“We had many more students than we expected coming into the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the College of Business, but fewer than expected coming into the College of Engineering,” Hyland said.

Political science and international relations were two majors that students expressed a higher interest in than previously anticipated. 

Szczepanski said this was a big surprise. 

“We can’t always anticipate demand with 100 percent accuracy,” she said. “The seats that were set aside for first-year students were filled up very quickly, so we had to expand and make more seats available.”

Expanding classes is not the only way that Lehigh plans on accommodating students. Hyland said the university has just approved a visiting professor in the political science department.

Jerome Licini, an associate professor of physics, said he does not have any concerns right now about the increasing student body.

“So far, we’ve been able to get enough resources from the university to offer as many recitations as we need to, and the recitations are not overcrowded,” he said. “We are able to serve the students pretty well.”

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