Editorial: Wintersteen should consider issues with student growth


President-select Wendy Wintersteen speaks in the Memorial Union after being announced as the next President of Iowa State University on Monday. She was unanimously chosen by the Board of Regents. Wintersteen is the first female to hold the position of President at Iowa State.

Editorial Board

Wendy Wintersteen was voted in as the 16th president of Iowa State University on Sept. 24. Before this, she was serving as the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Science here at Iowa State.

Because she was an internal candidate and has a better acquaintance with the university, Wintersteen is confident and prepared to tackle current key challenges that Iowa State University is facing. During her open forum, she added that “what I bring is a deep understanding of these issues. I know the players, I know the history and the context, and I think it allows me on day one to begin the work”.

No doubt, Wintersteen has a strong background in fundraising, fiscal management, research, diversity and the student experience. But her new position will now open her to university-wide pertinent challenges including diversity and inclusion, preventing sexual misconduct on campus and the moderation in the expense of attending Iowa State. Moreover, the ongoing campus climate survey might reveal several other key issues that students are facing and need to be addressed on priority basis.

While other issues are being considered, thinking about attracting more students at the current cost of living at Iowa State can be another challenge that might require some strategic planning. This year’s student enrollment was 36,321 which is the second highest in school history after 2016 when it was 36,660. However, the enrollment has been gradually increasing over the last five years, before leveling off this year. 

Universities that provide their growing student population with the best services, programs and resources and maintain high retention rates, in turn, attract more competitive students.

Iowa State students already have concerns over housing issues especially relating to space and cost. Increasing the enrollment will only exacerbate this problem. Wintersteen should work hand in hand with the new city government in this regard to resolve these housing issues.

Besides that, maintaining adequate classroom space and a good student-faculty ratio will be another subsequent concern. Currently, Iowa State has 19:1 student-faculty ratio, which is not very competitive compared to the University of Iowa which has a ratio of 16:1 and the University of Northern Iowa which has a ratio of 17:1. Increasing enrollment will require more faculty in order to lower, or at least maintain the current ratio.

When universities increase their student enrollment, it definitely makes it challenging for administration to provide students with cost-effective housing, adequate space and availability of faculty. But some early brainstorming and strategic planning can alleviate these challenges if the student enrollment rates begin to rise again.