36,001 creates new challenges for Iowa State


Photo: Jack Heintz/Iowa State Daily

Associate professor James Colbert teaches a full Bio 211 lecture class in Design 0101. Many lecture halls around campus are full to the brim with students this semester, due mainly to the larger-than-ever student enrollment at Iowa State.

Mitch Anderson

Record enrollment means a record amount of strain not only on human resources, but also on Iowa State’s facilities.

The 36,001 students on campus this fall is more than Iowa State has ever seen at the beginning of a semester. It’s the seventh straight year of record-breaking enrollment, and the ninth straight year the university has seen an increase from the previous year. 

With such a dramatic increase in the number of students on campus, students and faculty are seeing changes in a number of ways. Challenges are facility maintenance, classroom availability and scheduling. 

“The growth in enrollment has certainly presented some challenges as we accommodate more people on campus, and we’ve been making changes to deal with that,” said Warren Madden, senior vice president of business and finance at Iowa State. 

One change the university has had to make is increased custodial support in many buildings. Madden said that since so many students are going in and out of buildings for classes, restrooms can’t make it a full day without being serviced. 

“As a university, we’re consuming 30 percent more toilet paper than we were before,” Madden said. “I think that’s a combination of two things — one being more people, and also we’re finding that people are spending more of their day on campus. Things like that aren’t really a problem, it’s just a practical cost increase that comes with accommodating more people.”

The university is trying to deal with the flow of students outside of the buildings as well. 

“We made some changes that we think are helping traffic patterns,” Madden said. “We’ve eliminated parking on Osborne Drive and that seems to have really improved the flow of people, bicycles, skateboards, et cetera. We’re trying it as a pilot project, but it appears to me that it’s successful.”

Katie Baumgarn, coordinator for instructional facilities, added that a main cause for students to stay on campus longer could be that the university’s peak hours are beginning to spread. 

“What we call ‘primetime’ hours on campus are classes that begin at 9 a.m. and classes that end at 3 p.m. and all classes in between,” Baumgarn said. “We are now starting to notice that more classes are being scheduled at 8 a.m. and after 3 p.m. as well.” 

A total of 214 general university classrooms exist at Iowa State, which only make up 4 percent of the total space on campus. Buildings like Snedecor Hall, Catt Hall and Beardshear Hall don’t have any classrooms, and many buildings have only a few classrooms or rooms that are used for classes unique to certain departments. 

“There have been conversations about adding classrooms with the Student Innovation Center when it is built,” Baumgarn said. “The biosciences project and the addition to Bessey Hall will also create classrooms.”

Another project coming next summer is the renovation of classrooms on the second floor of Pearson Hall, Baumgarn said, so those will be unavailable from the summer of 2016 to the fall of 2017.

Baumgarn said with the frequent and extended use of classrooms, it’s important that they remain organized to make the transition to the next class as easy as possible. She laid out a few things students and instructors can do to keep the rooms organized: 

  • Keep the rooms the way they are and leave the furniture arranged the way it was before class.
  • Don’t take chairs or desks from other classes. This causes violations to fire code and can be a danger to students in an emergency if the classroom is over capacity.
  • No food or beverages, as it causes extra wear and tear on facilities that are already highly used. 
  • If students want to regularly use a classroom, they must be recognized by student organizations and they must register with the Student Activity Center in order to reserve an online classroom. 

Rob Wallace, president of the ISU Faculty Senate, said when classroom space gets to be a hot commodity, it isn’t just the students who are affected. 

“I can tell you that faculty in general are very dedicated to this institution and want to do the best job possible, but when the constraints are placed that you can’t get into an appropriate lecture hall or the technology is inadequate for that level of teaching, finding an alternative place to teach with appropriate technology is difficult because there is simply so much volume of classes being delivered,” Wallace said. 

Even though 1,000 more students are on campus this year compared to 2014, the increase in revenue doesn’t necessarily make more money available for new faculty and facilities. This partly because of the the lag time of planning and completing projects as well as the time it takes to go through the hiring process for new quality faculty. 

“Currently the monetary resources (for more faculty) are not there at the level they need to be,” Wallace said. “We’ve had some problems getting funding from the legislature, so funds that were requested and earmarked to make our faculty-to-student ratio as low as possible, that has not come in nearly to the level that we actually need to maintain a good ratio.”

Wallace and Madden said the student-to-faculty ratio is still hovering around the 19:1 mark. They also said they would rather deal with the challenges of growth of student population than the challenges that stem from declining enrollment and shrinking programs.

Wallace said there is also plenty to be learned from the challenges being presented. 

“Maybe the word needs to get out to legislators that we have this intense demand and they really need to get it in terms of how stressed we are here,” Wallace said. “So maybe that needs to be a broader impact that would come out of being able to understand this growth and enrollment.”