Thursday, October 10, 2013

Growing student population causes worry among teachers and students

The university has broken its own record for the 16th straight year with 35,568 enrolled students this fall, according to a September press release.  The expansion has educators and students concerned.

The campus is supporting more people than originally intended, and university officials have turned to blueprints and contractors in their quest for solutions.

The Psychology Building and Old Main have become the eyesores of central campus.  Fences, noise and debris are a stark reminder of the school's growing list of construction projects.

With such fast-paced expansion, many constituents feel the university is unable to keep up with the resources its students need.

Tom Grimes, professor of mass communications, began teaching at Texas State in 2007.  He recalls that the school did not always feel so crowded.

"When I got here... the town wasn't just overrun with people," Grimes said. "Now that's changed."

The swelling population has also affected transportation. Students are herded onto trams and sent on search missions for parking spaces.

For many, the overcrowding is a constant nuisance.

"I have waited for three buses to pass because they're always really packed," said junior mass communications major Courtney Moufarrej, 20. "We're all just like little sardines rushing for the bus."

The trams aren't the only things overrun.  Increased enrollment has left students with little alternative to large lecture classes.  Hundreds of students with only one professor is common at other universities, but the growing student-to-teacher ratio is a new problem at Texas State.

Bianca Gandaria is experiencing that dynamic first-hand.  The freshman from Mission attends a history class with 300 other students and feels the large size is taking a toll on her education.

"I can't have one-on-one interaction with a teacher," said the electronic media major.  "With so many students, I feel like I'm just a number."

Provost Eugene Bourgeois said in an article for the University Star that the school has added new sections to meet the demand for introductory courses.

Bourgeois also said that Texas State will be creating 30 new full-time faculty positions to better serve students.  The hiring has been approved by university officials, even though "the university technically remains under a hiring freeze".

Bringing in additional faculty will not solve all of the universities problems, however.  The problem of overcrowding is an elaborate chess game, leaving school officials constantly in check.

Gail Zank, Associate Professor of Marketing in the McCoy College of Business and Adviser for the American Marketing Association, fears changes in course offerings will leave student organizations scrambling for meeting locations.

"There are more night classes on campus this year, leaving the student organizations with less rooms to meet," she said.  "There need to be bigger rooms to accommodate the growing members in student organizations as well."

For seasoned undergrads like Cesar DeLeon, a dual major music education and biology pre-med senior, it is easy to accuse the administration of losing control.

"I believe it is the university's fault for not setting standards," he said.  "We're growing well above our means... The school does not know when to stop accepting students."

Natalie Reyes, a 20-year-old junior, agrees with DeLeon.

"It seems like they keep accepting more and more students without thinking through the repercussions," Reyes said.  "They should have spent more time thinking about the effects and preparing for them."

University officials see the story differently.

Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Michael Heintze says "controlled growth" is something the university needs to stay afloat.

"The way public universities are funded in this state, growth is necessary for the university's budget to continue to absorb rising costs," he said.

Even Professor Grimes, who ardently opposes the expansion, knows the school's evolution is unavoidable.

"If the only way we can pay for this place is to bring more students in," he said, "That's what we're going to do."

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