This August saw the arrival of the largest freshman class in University of Dallas history, with 399 students. With them came inevitable questions about the future of the university.
The freshman class in 2012 totaled 380 students. 2013’s incoming freshman class numbered 361 students, and fall 2014 brought another class of 380 freshmen, according to the UD website.
The total number of enrolled undergraduate students was 1,327 as of fall 2014.
President Thomas Keefe explained that the university’s goal is 1,500 undergraduate students.
“If we have 400 undergraduate students each year for four years, if you do the math that’s 1,600 students,” Keefe said. “But if you have an attrition rate of approximately 15 percent of the incoming class, then you end up with, after a four-year period of time, approximately 1,500 students.”
Keefe explained that the university needs this growth in order to function without debt. If the student body is too small, the costs of running the university will exceed the monetary gain brought to the school through student tuition.
“When we don’t operate in the black, we have to do a couple of things,” Keefe said. “One is we have to raise tuition … Two, we have to reduce scholarships. Three, we increase the number of students we have so we can amortize the cost of operating the university over a broader base.”
Keefe does not think that this growth goal will detract from the close-knit society of UD’s student body.
“That intimacy is not predicated exclusively on the number of students,” Keefe said. “It’s also predicated upon the kind of culture that we have here in the outreach, in the effort that we have on behalf of faculty and staff and administrators to make this a family community.”
Provost Dr. C.W. Eaker also does not think that the planned increase of students will have any negative effects on the intimacy of the UD community.
“Right now, we’re at 1,350 [students], so I don’t see another 150 students as really changing the character and nature of what we’re doing here,” Eaker said. “If we went to 2,000, then maybe we would have to be concerned about that.”
He believes that the UD community is made intimate by small class sizes and faculty who find great joy in teaching and interacting with their students.
Eaker does not think that the growth UD has in mind at all endangers this important aspect of the university.
“We attract faculty that are really committed to the mission of the school, and we attract students that understand the importance of education and the kind of education that we offer at the University of Dallas,” Eaker said.
Alumnus Peter Bloch, class of ’09, said that if the intended growth is implemented gradually, and an effort is made to maintain the quality of students, then negative changes to the community would be minor.
“My intuition is that the most notable impact on campus will be that things will be 10 percent slower, 10 percent more expensive, 10 percent less personal, 10 percent more adjunct-taught classes, and 10 percent more crowded,” said Bloch. “But at best there will be more creativity, the conversation that goes on at UD will grow, more people will get a fantastic education,” Bloch said.
Joe Amorella, class of ’09, believes a larger student body could be a positive change for the school.
“I think it would be a wonderful thing to be able to offer the UD experience to an increasing number of young people,” Amorella said. “Additional students could bring a great many benefits to the school, so long as the university continues to seek the strongly religious and academically excellent student.”
Professor of English Dr. Eileen Gregory, a UD alumna who has taught at the university since 1973, offered her opinion on the anticipated growth of the school. She believes that the goal of 1,500 undergraduate students is optimal with regard to the physical aspects of the school.
“That level is just about as far as we could go before we really have to change the structure of everything and really start having to build a lot of new buildings,” Gregory said.
Gregory also mentioned a lack of division-creating groups, such as fraternities, sororities and other organizations on campus that she believes would isolate groups of students from one another.
“The thing that we have going for us among students is this ability for all students to share with all students,” Gregory said. “There’re no factions, there’re no groups, there’re no boundaries. What I would hate to see go away is the free exchange of ideas and experiences among all students.”