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Class of 2020 yield largest in Carleton history

<ir="ltr">With 582 students currently enrolled in the class of 2020, next year’s first year class will be larger than Admissions’ estimates and larger than all currently matriculating class years. Carleton’s class size varies, with 498 students in the class of 2019 and 529 in the class of 2017. However, the class of 2020 is about 50 students larger than any matriculating class.

“This is an anomalous year if you look at patterns, our yield jumped four to five percent. Instead of hovering around 35 to 36 percent, it jumped to 40 percent. It’s kind of unheard of, unprecedented,” Vice President and Dean of admissions and financial aid Paul Thiboutot explained. “Our yield hovered between 35 and 36 percent for the last half dozen years.”

Thiboutot joked about the change throughout our chat, explaining that he was very cautious to try to explain the higher yield.

“At the moment, I think I’d rather rely on a crystal ball than any type of statistical analysis predicting our yield,” he said. “That might be the most appropriate thing. I’ll have it on that table over there, and we’ll look at it every year.”

Guessing how many students will accept the offer of admission requires balancing a lot of variables, including what other schools students will be accepted to, where students get off the waitlist, whether students decide not to go to college or whether students decide to take a gap year. Typically, Admissions sees a trend called “summer melt” in which some students who accepted on May 1st change their plans before school starts in the fall.

“People are asking ‘how many will you lose?,’ and I am a little shy trying to predict what might happen in terms of loss,” Thiboutot said. “I could wish for the highest melt that we’ve ever had. Last year was high. I think that 35 would be great, but so far in the 15 days after May 1st, that hasn’t been the pattern. This suggests that we’re heading towards the smallest melt we’ve ever seen.”

Thiboutot explained that there are pros and cons to the larger first year class. “In many ways it’s a good thing, but it does present larger questions for a small college over accommodating that number of people. So far all of my colleagues have said: ‘manageable, but it’d be nice if we lost a few.’”

Thiboutot’s sentiment was echoed by associate dean George Shuffelton who works in part for the registrar’s office creating the course curriculum for each year. He is modifying the courses planned for next year in order to accommodate the larger class of 2020.

“We have to go back and look at what we had planned for next year and try to figure out if there are places where we might not have enough classes on offer and if so what are our options”, he said.

“One place that we obviously know and that I am pretty confident we will be in good shape is in Argument and Inquiry seminars. We know we need to make those available for first years in the fall, but that obviously doesn’t affect anybody else,” he explained.

Shuffelton said, “I think by and large students won’t notice. If you think about the size of our overall curriculum, we offer more than 900 classes a year over three terms. If you think about what say 50 or 60 more students might mean. Yes, that’s a big difference on one level, but on a scale of 900 classes, you know, we are adding classes here and there, so it’s not as though it will be obvious with lots and lots and lots more classes on offer than there were before.”

He also pointed out that the Dean’s Office will be working on adding classes specific to the areas where first years are looking for courses, such as introductory courses, so the changes will not to affect the upperclassmen’s schedules much. “If you think about what first years need or are looking for they typically are taking different  kinds of courses than upperclassmen and so I don’t think the other three classes will necessarily notice it all that much.”

Shuffelton expressed that changing the course schedule does not work the same with each department, but was hesitant to name specific departments in the discussion. However he did say, “There are certain departments where we have more flexibility, based on who’s here and who’s already teaching at Carleton, and there are places where everyone we have is already teaching a full teaching load.”

Aside from the intricacies of planning, Shuffelton was not overly worried about the extra students: “The thing I would emphasize is that whether there is a lot of melt or a little melt I am confident we will be able to make the modest changes around the curriculum the we need to to accommodate extra students. I think on the whole we will have a lot of great classes for students to take and, in particular, classes for first years to take.”

Overall, both Thiboutot and Shuffelton stressed that there were many positives to the extra students and the new class. “I think it will be incredibly energizing to have more students on campus. We are not trying to deliberately grow the campus, so this is not something that we are aiming for, but I think as an unintended side effect, if I’m running a student activity maybe suddenly there are a few more students willing to come to my events. I’m trying to put on a experimental theater production, there may be just a few more people interested in acting in that production. That little extra bit of energy will be great,” Shuffleton said.

Thiboutot pointed out another positive aspect of the higher yield, saying, “Isn’t it nice to think your yield went up and you are desirable to more students?” He also wanted to bring attention to other aspects of the class of 2020, pointing out the diversity of the incoming students. The Class of 2020 is 30 percent students of color, which is 4 percent higher than last year and the highest percent ever.

This diversity can be seen in many different ways, he explained. “We have 8.5 percent international, we have 47 states represented, we have 25+ countries represented, and its 13 percent first generation, wonderful socio-economic diversity.

“The talents and skills represented are wonderful, and there is even a small uptick in quality by all the standard measures. I can’t complain about the group we have coming in, so we do have the issue of a larger class but wonderful other effects coming with it of probably one of the most diverse classes.”

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