settled — the
for all practical
Wait — that’s just the undergraduates.
Add a couple of thousand graduate and
professional students. Don’t think about
scrimping on those — if the University
doesn’t maintain a ratio of about 60/40
undergraduates to grad students, it loses
teachers and key players in the life of a
UNC is expecting the student population to grow roughly 17 percent, with a
concomitant surge in faculty and staff.
Growth is nothing new. Enrollment has
been inching up one or two percentage
points a year since 1996, the last year in
which it actually dropped. The projection
for the next decade is essentially the same
as the 1998-2007 period. But there’s a difference in the air this time. It may have
started a year ago when James Moeser
called the enrollment issue the “single most
critical issue facing my successor” as chancellor.
This, in part, is the basis for that statement:
The brightest college-bound students
shop carefully, and many of them are wary
of big universities. Those who come bring
pressure to keep classes as small as possible
and staffed with elite faculty and to grow
opportunities for research, study abroad and
honors programs. If they take their lofty
credentials elsewhere, they leave a school
with a limit on out-of-state students vulnerable to slipping in the quality of its student body.
Across campus — even at the climax
of a $2.1 billion building and renovation
campaign — almost every school and
department is now at a space deficit,
according to a study by national experts in
higher education planning. Recreation
venues, dining halls and the student health
service are crowded; in places, vehicle and
pedestrian traffic is intense. There is little
room to expand the campus further without esthetic and quality compromises, such
as more high-rises or reduction of open
Faculty Chair Joe Templeton says: “The
numbers are overwhelming.”
Some of the best public schools in
the country are far bigger than Carolina’s
enrollment of 28,000: Berkeley has 35,000;
UCLA, 39,000; Michigan, 41,000; Illinois,
42,000; Wisconsin, 42,000; Texas, 50,000.
(These figures are from fall 2007.) Big must
Aside from the maxed-out main campus, UNC has room to grow on the
1,000-acre Carolina North site and on
some 65 acres adjacent to Mason Farm.
Carolina will have to start thinking bigger,
and thinking multi-campus, but it already
owns the sites, roughly a mile to the north
and east. The biggest issue seems to be
convincing the town of Chapel Hill that
Carolina needs to grow and can do it
In 1795, each of Carolina’s 41 students
had about 31 and a half acres to himself.
Hinton James may have grumbled 10 years
later when he read the place had grown 39
percent since he was a student, thereby
starting a long line of alumni who think
their class was the perfect size.
In 2008, hands are wringing over how
to maintain academic quality, keep the best
of those increasingly savvy and choosy
high-schoolers applying, build labs and
classrooms fast enough — and pay for it all.
Alumni may debate whether it’s good
or bad for the flagship campus to continue
to grow, but in South Building the atmosphere is settled — the buy-in among
administrators, for all practical purposes, is
total. North Carolina is one of the nation’s
fastest-growing states, and a decade from
now there will be 80,000 more students
enrolled on the 16 UNC System campuses. Every campus has been told to pitch
“How ludicrous is it to reduce the
number of students, as a percentage of the
sons and daughters of the state, of your best
university?” asks Roger Perry ’ 71, chair of
But on the day in September when the
trustees got their consultants’ final reports
on the impact of growth on admissions
patterns and building space, there was still
ample concern around the table — concern that UNC’s quality could suffer if the
state doesn’t realize how expensive growth
is in Chapel Hill and doesn’t step up with
the money to fund it.
“My eyes have been opened, and I’m
very concerned about the pitfalls of this,”
said trustee Bob Winston ’ 84.
“Ultimately it’s going to boil down to
resources,” said trustee Rusty Carter ’ 71.
“What is the best value of Carolina to the
state of North Carolina? I think that debate