Scripps admits unusually large first-year class

By Lucy Altman-Newell ‘17Staff Writer

It’s no secret that the Class of 2017 is the largest in the history of Scripps College. These 272 first-years have brought with them a plethora of experiences, interests, and talents, and are already having a positive impact on the Scripps community. Yet while some view the arrival of the largest incoming class as an exciting moment in the history of the college, others are concerned and even angry by issues created by over-enrollment.

Although the official numbers have yet to be published, the Office of Admission was able to provide some rough, unofficial numbers. Over the past three years, Scripps College has welcomed between 230 and 245 students to campus in the fall; this year, 272 arrived. But why? There are quite a few theories floating around campus. One is that Scripps is trying to over-enroll in order to justify building a new dorm. Acting Dean of Students and Interim Director of Residential Life Sam Haynes—whose statements do not necessarily reflect the views of the college or administration—does say that “the College has previously identified the need for a new building (residential hall) in its long range plans, I am certain the charge will be a part of the college’s next fund raising campaign.” However, the rumor that over-enrollment was a means of justifying the construction of a new residence hall has been rejected. Laura Stratton, Director of Admission, asserts that over-enrollment was not done purposefully to advance any particular agenda. In fact, there was not even a change in recruitment tactics to attract more prospective students. Stratton explains that the Office of Admission plays a guessing game each year; although the Office has control over the amount of students admitted, the number of those who actually choose to attend Scripps College (the number formally known as the “yield”) is out of their hands. Stratton emphasizes that Scripps College is very proud of the Class of 2017 and all of its outstanding accomplishments, and assures all that the quality of the class was not sacrificed. The fact that more students are attending than usual does not mean that Admission has at all deviated from its commitment to a holistic approach to admissions, nor does it mean that it has lowered its expectations in selecting the best future Scripps students.

If a more comprehensive recruitment campaign was not involved, what caused such a high yield? A dramatic increase in interest, apparently—perhaps caused by the increased attention that the Claremont Colleges have received over the past year or so. Says Haynes, “Increased enrollment happened as a direct result of a nation recognizing the value among the colleges in our community.” This analysis seems right in line with the numbers; during the 2012 application cycle that selected the class of 2017, there was a dramatic increase in Early Decision (ED) applications. While in 2010, 142 ED applications were received, Scripps College received 179 last year. Over-enrollment at Scripps College was and will continue to be taken into account regarding other applicants. Zero students were accepted off of the wait list to join the Class of 2017. In addition, no transfer students will be admitted for the Spring of 2013.

Two major concerns arose from the reality of sharing resources among a larger student body: class size and housing. Happily, the first concern seems unnecessary; not one of the Scripps students interviewed noticed a difference in the quality or size of the classes. Scripps avoided this potential problem by adding extra classes and sections, and by allowing more first years to take more classes at the other colleges than has been traditionally allowed. In these ways, class sizes have remained small and students still have ample means to take the classes they want to despite the larger-than-expected Scripps student body.

The second problem—that of housing—is a substantial issue. Most first-years are in forced doubles or triples—a few have even been placed in the senior apartments due to lack of space—and many upperclasswomen have been pushed off campus to Smiley residence hall on Pomona’s campus or to off-campus housing. Sophomores especially are getting the short end of the stick, as they often do not receive Hall Draw numbers as good as those of the upperclasswomen. While the first years do not generally seem upset about their housing situations—many in forced doubles and triples have said that the space is workable, in some cases even roomy—upperclasswomen who have something with which to compare the current housing situation are outraged. Understandably, those who have been forced off campus are the most upset of all.

Perhaps some of this anger may be dissipated by acknowledging Stratton’s assertion that those in administration are “painfully aware” of the limited room on landlocked Scripps. Students are extremely fortunate, however, that although they might not be guaranteed convenient housing, Scripps College housing is guaranteed for all four years—a relatively uncommon policy among American colleges and universities. Haynes commented, “I am happy to report that we accommodated most rising juniors’, seniors’, and new students’ (and many sophomores’) housing requests posy Hall Draw. I, along with the Hall Directors and staff in the DOS office, worked hard to make sure students received the Scripps Housing they expected and/or wanted. It is true that some did not get their first or second choice; but in the end, all were placed in Scripps housing on and off campus. Currently, I along with others in the Residential Life office, the DOS office alongside with various offices across the college are working to make it better and prepare better in the future if we should experience high enrollment again. I anticipate a better experience in the future for all Scripps students and we will have viable housing options Scripps students have come to expect and enjoy.” The historically large class size of the Class of 2017 has certainly affected the campus and student body as a whole. Yet this is not entirely a bad thing. Stratton asserts that the presence of a “vibrant, academically well-prepared class” is a very positive thing which keeps the high number of students from making the situation of over-enrollment anything worse than neutral. In the words of Haynes, “Scripps is a wonderful place. It is always a benefit to come together and be together no matter the number of students in any given year.”