Stark campus responds to increase in enrollment

Kyle Nelson

A boom in enrollment at the Kent State Stark Campus is forcing the school’s administration to adjust its strategies while still maintaining the school’s small-college atmosphere.

Mary S. Southards, assistant dean for enrollment management, said the headcount for spring semester is at 4,564 students, up from 3,972 last spring — a 13 percent increase. Enrollment is also up 3.3 percent from fall semester, when 4,414 students were enrolled.

The school made the decision to close registration on Jan. 11 after increased enrollment limited the available space in classes.

“We knew by the time (the students’) transcripts were sent in, there wouldn’t be anything left to take,” Southards said. “We’ve reached the point where we can’t take more on. We’ve stretched classes as far as they can be stretched while still staying true to our small-college feel.”

Interim Dean Ruth Capasso said the increased enrollment is a challenge, but a challenge that she is meeting head-on.

“We’re happy to see and glad to adjust,” Capasso said. “It’s an interesting challenge. Earlier on, I started asking the question about being big. Now we’re over 4,000 (students). It just kind of brings us to a different level.”

Increased enrollment is affecting all aspects of the administration at the Stark branch. The admissions department has taken much of this hit. More students generally mean less space.

“The typical comment is ‘I really want to get in this class but it’s full,’” Southards said. “We had to create a waiting list for certain classes. We’re trying to accommodate students as best we can.”

One accommodation is opening new sections of classes, while still maintaining a low student-to-teacher ratio, to relieve some of the pressure.

“We don’t have a lot of big lectures,” Capasso said. “I think what’s happened is we’ve hit our limits, and as we’ve hit those we’ve made more sections available.”

Some students, however, have not noticed much of a change. Junior marketing major Zach Grnach said he notices more people on campus, but it has not affected him too much.

“There are a lot more students,” Grnach said. “I registered late, but I was still able to get every class I needed. I still only have 10 people in one of my marketing classes.”

Capasso said she and her staff are trying to streamline their system and make things simpler for students.

“The bookstore is going online,” Capasso said. “This will offer more convenience for students. They can order online and either pick their book up or have it shipped to them. We’ve always prided ourselves on having one-stop shopping and making things as easy as possible for students to navigate.”

Capasso said the most important thing she is taking away from the increased enrollment is the fact that students are coming back for another term.

“Comparing last fall to this spring, the numbers are good,” Capasso said. “The persistence is up. People who come in the fall stay for the spring, and that’s a good thing.”

Contact regional campus reporter Kyle Nelson at [email protected].