Dean of the College John Boyer said in a recent meeting with students that the College plans to eventually have about 1,700 students per class for a population of around 7,000 undergraduates.
“We had our largest incoming class this fall, 100 students over from what the University planned,” Boyer is paraphrased as saying in the minutes from a recent Maroon Key Society (MKS) meeting, which a source gave to The Maroon. “This had much to do with our yield rate; we were third in the country in terms of yield. The University’s goal is to bring next year’s incoming class size down. Overtime, the size of the college will end up about the same size as Harvard. The class size for each incoming class will be moving towards 1,700 and that’s where we will plateau for each class to create a population of 7,000 undergraduates.”
For the Class of 2021, the University admitted 2,419 students and reported a 72 percent yield. Harvard admitted 2,056 applicants, with a yield rate of 84 percent. For the Class of 2022, the College admitted 2,329 students with a yield rate of 78 percent. Harvard accepted 1,962 students, 82 percent of whom accepted their admission offers. As the yield rate for the University continues to trend upward, the number of accepted students is likely to decrease.
The minutes paraphrase Boyer as saying that the University is “looking to build back to the status and size of the college from before WWII. While we are comparing our size to Harvard, this has been a long historical trajectory that started decades ago and is coming to a close as we meet this goal.”
In response to a Maroon request for comment, Boyer expanded upon his comments to MKS. “At the present time, we have about 6,600 students, whereas Harvard has about 6,700. Before World War II, the College was about the same size as Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. Our enrollments basically collapsed after 1950, sinking to a low of about 1,350 students in 1953, whereas those of all of our peer universities did not. The University has sought over the last 20 years to return the College to a size similar to its peers, and we are now getting close to that level.”
On the issue of rapid growth, Boyer said to MKS, “The University will have to address their facilities and may want to think about the nature of the academic year. I have been very open to the semester system, but that’s not the way the University wants to go, faculty would be very much opposed.”
In response to a Maroon request for clarification on his comment about a transition to the semester system, he elaborated further.
“As for the semester system, I have long (since the 1990s) been an advocate of our going on the semester system, but this is definitely a minority opinion, since I suspect that the great majority of the faculty favor retaining the quarter system. This issue has nothing to with under- or over-enrollment, and right now we are neither under- nor over-enrolled. Rather, it has to do with my sense of the relentless nature of the quarter system, as experienced by students, and that the semester system would afford our students a better educational learning environment. But, as I say, I doubt that the University will ever abandon the quarter system. We have had it since 1892, and it seems to have become a permanent fixture of our identity.”
With MKS, Boyer also discussed how the University has recently become a “very hot college” in the past five to 10 years. He noted that the University was ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for the third consecutive year. The College saw its largest incoming class enter this fall, 1,814 students. This is largely due to its high yield rate, which ranked third nationally.
“We are becoming much more competitive with Penn, Columbia, Brown, and some of the other Ivy+ institutions,” Boyer explained. “What we are hearing from the entering students and families, Chicago has a profile of high intellectualism, life of the mind ideals, and for a certain section of the country, that is a strong set of American values.”
However, the College’s Core Curriculum will remain largely the same for the foreseeable future, according to the minutes.
“We last looked at the Core 20 years ago. It took three years and was enormously controversial; I think the structure is still where it should be. Faculty do create new Core courses through regeneration. We shouldn’t be in the business of having faculty teaching the same courses for 60 years. There’s a new Core course in humanities and social sciences emerging. On that level there will be a lot of change, but in terms of numerically, I don’t foresee any changes in going back to 22 classes or trimming below 15 for the Core.”
When asked about the potential addition of new majors to the curriculum, the Dean of the College demurred. “Faculty are working to collect faculty and student interests to see where those intersect. There are majors in the development stages, but we are unable to share those at the moment.”
The removal of part-time student status was also discussed, as some in MKS inquired if the U.S. News rankings affected the decision.
Dean Boyer responded, “The part-time status decision has nothing to do with ratings. Four years ago we looked at all of our peers as it relates to part-time status and we learned that (1) part-time status effects financial aid, (2) we learned that some international students could go part-time and some couldn’t, and that’s not where we wanted to be. We slowly started taking this enrollment option away over the last few years. Students can still apply for Student Disability Status, going to three classes. Should a student feel that they need to go part-time status and do not agree with this policy, we suggest they talk to their academic advisor as soon as possible.”
MKS is the College’s honorary society for third- and fourth-year students. Members serve as advisors to the Dean of the College and the Dean of Students. Applicants must be active in extracurricular activities and maintain at least a 3.5 GPA.