Tripled up: Largest freshman class in university history squeezes into dorms


At last week’s Twilight Induction Ceremony, 400 more candles glowed on the South Green than last year, each candle representing a member of the largest entering class in the university’s history.

There are 4,200 new freshmen in the class of 2018, whereas the average in past years has usually been around 3,800, Vice President of Enrollment Management Chris Lucier said. Although the school’s target of 3,800 remained the same for this year, more students than normal chose Delaware when they were accepted.

Part of Lucier’s job—which is a new position at the university—involves looking at data to understand why this situation occurred, then applying that information into the admissions process going into next year.

“I think there is a perception of the University of Delaware as a great value to students,” he said. “Our low cost and financial aid make us very competitive, as does our academic and student life experience. UD students are also going onto prestigious jobs and graduate programs, which is important to prospective students and families.”

torman triple
Courtesy of Jen Torman
Almost every freshman residence hall on campus houses many triple rooms, including Rodney Residence Hall, as is pictured here.

Because of the over enrollment, 30 percent of freshmen currently live in extended housing. There are 378 forced triples this year, Kathleen Kerr, executive director of residence life and housing, said. Typically, there are around 110.

“We do our best to accommodate students in this situation,” she said. “We explain we pick the largest rooms and work to detriple those with the greatest concern most quickly.”

She also said that residence life provides a weekly rebate for any students still living in forced triples beginning Oct. 1.

Freshman Jen Torman, who lives in a triple in Rodney Residence Hall, said that she was initially upset about her room assignment, especially because she had already chosen a roommate and assumed they would be living in a double room.

“It hasn’t been bad at all, though,” Torman said. “We’ve gotten used to the space we have and so far my roommates and I all respect each other. We’re making it work.”

In honors freshman housing, the percentage of triples is consistent with the rest of the residence halls. In fact, 150 of the additional 400 students in the freshman class are enrolled in the honors program. The program usually has approximately 400 to 450 students in each class, but there are 599 honors freshmen this year.

Honors Program Director Michael Arnold said that, like general admissions, its target remained the same this year. However, the program experienced a similarly high and unexpected yield.

There is not a clear answer for why this happened this particular year, he said, but he did think new marketing efforts played a role.

“The Taste of UD pilot program this year where current honors students hosted prospective students for lunch during a campus visit likely had an impact,” Arnold said. “But I’d also like to think most of it is the result of the growing strength and reputation of the honors program and the university as a whole.”

Both Arnold and Lucier expressed the university’s commitment to supporting this larger class. Several more introductory classes, especially within honors, were added, and some residence hall staffs were expanded. Lucier said despite the increased size, the aim for the school is to provide the same experience as always.

Arnold said the university and the honors program plan to make efforts to scale freshman enrollment back down to its usual numbers this upcoming year.

“What this will likely mean is that we will become a more selective university in the future,” Lucier said. “From the number of applications we receive we will be accepting fewer students.”

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    Young(ish) Alumnus 5 years

    It seems you buried the lede here. If Honors students make up a little more than 10 percent of a given class, and they comprise 40 percent of this year’s over-enrollment, I think you know where to start to identify the cause of the problem. To be sure, I’d say this is a “good” dilemma to face and a positive reflection of the Honors Program’s reputation. The better question, however, is what the university will do with the windfall in tuition revenue from an extra 400 students, because I can almost guarantee that the institutional budget this year only planned for 3,800. It’s manna from heaven with possible implications for all sorts of projects around campus.

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