Approximately 1,100 first-year students poured onto Butler University’s campus Saturday to begin their studies.
The record-breaking freshman class comes with plenty of potential, vibrancy and energy.
Still, the ever-expanding enrollment could end up forcing administrators to cut corners in facilities, infrastructure and student life.
Housing, parking and budget allocations have all caused strife on campus in years past, so it is crucial that administrators take a look at how expansion could impact our university.
Recently, it seems that university officials have been optimistic about the university’s future.
Vice President for Student Affairs Levester Johnson was optimistic about Butler’s buckling capacity and the university’s ability to handle it.
The university has been getting bigger and bigger over the years and each time, he said, administrators have found extra beds, allotted more parking spaces and scheduled more courses.
The university has swiftly dealt with the enrollment issue when it has come up.
In 2010, when the entering class was record-size, school administrators made the necessary changes to ensure that everyone had a place to live on campus.
While Butler technically might not be facing a housing crisis, there is no doubt we are closing in on the inability to house all students.
Total occupancy numbers for non-Greek housing, including all the residential halls, University Terrace and Apartment Village, sum up to more than 2,000.
Thus, the 1,111 first-year students alone will use around half of the non-Greek campus housing.
Although a new residence hall—along with expansions to existing ones—are in the master plan, there is no concrete timeline for these additions yet.
Similarly, construction of a parking garage is in the works, which would surely alleviate the parking crunch Butler students and faculty face now.
But there are still too many questions that have gone unanswered about the parking solution.
The location, cost, timeline and logistics for a parking garage are still up in the air until final proposals make their way into the hands of Ben Hunter, chief of staff and executive director of public safety.
The small-school vibe is part of Butler’s appeal. If Butler continues to expand, it’s important that administrators consider how to maintain that caring atmosphere.
The New Student Success Task Force, a committee formed from various campus groups, has been planning ways to ensure all students continue having positive Butler experiences.
An administrative goal is to keep class sizes relatively small by creating more course opportunities, thus preventing a shortage of classes and faculty, Johnson said.
In the end, the coalition tacked on a few courses and hours.
By examining just these concerns, it becomes apparent that the administration does not have clear answers.
While the potential parking garage will eventually mitigate traffic issues, it does nothing to fix the problem unless it’s planned soon.
Although more course hours and opportunities were added in order to control class sizes, those same tactics may not work when more students enroll in the coming years.
Real, sustainable solutions need to be created in the next few years to match the ever-mounting interest and enrollment at Butler.
Otherwise, actual housing, parking, infrastructure and financial crises could be imminent.
More students than just seniors need to be allowed to live off campus.
More parking spaces or a parking garage must be built and a cap must be placed on the number of parking permits allotted.
Improvements must be made to the academic buildings.
More faculty and staff must be hired to balance the student-to- faculty ratio.
And all of this must happen soon.
While this unprecedented number of new students gives the campus much to be excited about—a new sense of life—growth should be coupled with solid ideas about Butler’s future in order to sustain the current level of expansion.