UMass admits too many students

As enrollment numbers continue to rise, UMass must consider expanding their campus  

Samantha Webber / Daily Collegian

Samantha Webber / Daily Collegian

By Katherine Kelly-Coviello, Collegian Contributor

It’s time to say what we’re all thinking: the University of Massachusetts is way too big. I’m not talking about the physical campus; if the library is too far away from the business school is the subject of another debate. I’m talking about the problems we, as students, experience every day in dorm buildings, the student union, the recreation center and especially the dining halls. There are simply too many students attending UMass, and it affects us all.

We all see it in the dining halls, where there are hardly ever any seats to be found. I, along with many other students I know, have resorted to purposely eating meals at strange, unconventional hours (like the classic 4 p.m. lunch) to avoid the rush of people crowding the dining halls.

Dining halls aside, the dorm situation isn’t much better.

Western Mass News reported at the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year that the University offered incentives like tuition breaks to entice nearby students to live at home and commute to classes. All of this with the hope of making room for that year’s inordinately large freshman class. And anyone who’s ever tried to get a table in the Student Union or Isenberg lobby to study can tell you that it’s next to impossible. At the end of the day, there are far too many students here and UMass doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate to them.

The University has consistently admitted more students than it realistically should for the last few years. All four of the undergraduate classes at UMass were either the largest class that the University had ever admitted or close to it. In 2019, the University’s incoming freshman class boasted 5,800 students, followed by 2020’s incoming freshman class of 5,025 students. A similar number of 5,010 students had been admitted in the previous class of 2018, according to the University’s Admissions and Enrollment Report for the year.

Although official numbers regarding the University’s 2021-2022 freshman class haven’t been released yet, most will not be surprised to hear that this year’s incoming class is equally as large. MassLive reports that there are about 4,900 members of the freshman class this year.

Looking at this data might lead some to believe that this issue is specifically due to mismanagement on behalf of the administration — however, this is not a UMass issue. Our University is not the only one in the UMass system that has been over-admitting students for the past few years. The University of Massachusetts Lowell, for example, admitted 300 more students in their class of 2023 than their class of 2022. Clearly, this is an issue that affects more than just this particular branch of the state’s public university system.

What does this mean for the future of UMass? The large classes full of students can’t be helped at this point, and the only way to fix this would be to expand UMass’ physical campus in order to include more dorms, dining halls and academic buildings. This problem can’t be unique to UMass; It’s a problem that needs to be addressed at the state level.

One possible solution would be to expand the UMass state system as a whole. Instead of placing the burden on the individual existing campuses — Amherst, Boston, Lowell and Dartmouth —maybe the best solution would be to add another campus. Looking at the University of California system as a model, it might make more sense to add a location instead of admitting excessive amounts of students to a limited number of campuses. For the UC system, the University of California Merced opened as a direct result of the need to “meet long-term enrollment demand.” The UMass system might want to start taking notes.

At the end of the day, we should be proud of the high standards of education that draw people toward the UMass school system and its flagship campus. If the high enrollment numbers are hindering students from receiving a quality education, it’s time to make a change.

Katherine Kelly-Coviello can be reached at [email protected]