In college, size matters

By Taylor Powell

Small classes, concerned teachers and student-teacher relationships enable academic success.
Large schools often have lectures with hundreds of students and use graduate assistants. Both can hinder student learning.
As a transfer student from the large Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, I sat in an economics lecture of more than 400 students, had a total of four teacher and graduate assistants during one year, and only four of nine teachers knew my name.
Lectures with 200, 400 or more students make individuals feel less like students and more like numbers.
So when my new audio production professor at Butler asked how I was doing one day, I realized the true convenience in attending a smaller school.
“I think most faculty and students would agree,” said Ian Anderson, recording industry studies professor, “that the primary advantage of working at a smaller institution would be the smaller class sizes and a small faculty to student ratio.”
During the 2012-2013 academic year, Butler had a total undergraduate enrollment of only 4,020 students, according to the “Common Data Set” on Butler’s website. The student to faculty ratio was 11:1.
Butler advertises its lack of graduate assistants.
The small class and lecture size at Butler allow for more individualized focus and instruction between students and professors.
Sophomore Olivia Cox transferred from New York University to Butler in the middle of her freshman year. She was drawn to the school primarily because of the dance program, but also wanted more green space and a less rushed atmosphere.
NYU has an undergraduate enrollment of 19,041 and a total of 50,917 students, according to the NYU website’s fast fact page. The school is considered “in and of” the city. The campus is centered in Manhattan.
“It was fast paced, so I didn’t have time to sit and talk to professors,” Cox said. “And it was so big that they kind of didn’t have time to talk to you either.”
At Miami, the professor would likely never know who a student was. He or she could not offer one-on-one instruction with so many other students to teach as well.
“A smaller campus tends to create a tighter community,” Anderson said. “Faculty know their students’ names, their relative strengths and weaknesses and really have more opportunities to individualize learning experiences.”
Due to its smaller size, Butler’s professors seem more caring toward students and truly push for academic success. Many professors commit to making themselves highly accessible for students in need of help.
At Butler, seeing a professor and student having coffee at Starbucks to discuss coursework is common. Better relationships can form between students and professors since teachers have fewer students to assist.
Cox said she felt a sense of disconnection at NYU. She said she did not enjoy sharing her campus with the rest of Manhattan and found walking 15 minutes to her friends’ dorms to be a waste of time.
“It feels better to have a separation between school,” Cox said, “where I am supposed to be focused and do work, and having the option to go to Broad Ripple or downtown Indianapolis.”
Having too many distractions on campus made Cox feel as if there were a conflict of interest. Since Butler’s campus is smaller and conveniently separate from downtown, Cox said off-campus extracurricular activities are “not always in your face.”
“As odd as it might sound,” Anderson said, “I personally find a smaller campus much more relaxing, which helps me be a more effective and productive educator.”
Smaller schools provide for an academic-focused atmosphere and a sense of home.
With popular Division I sports and Indianapolis nearby, Butler does not lack some of the benefits of attending a big school.
Instead, Butler seems to be the perfect combination of the two.