Enrollment cap voted down by SGA

Jessica Sasseen

Student Government Association Congress, by a large margin, shot down a resolution Tuesday that would have asked Western to implement an enrollment cap.

A number of congress members, including SGA president Jamie Sears, said they disagreed with the measure, calling it too drastic. Many suggested other options that could be explored to control the flow of students on the Hill.

Mark Rawlings, a member of SGA judicial council, suggested the university raise test score standards, add an essay to its student application or possibly raise tuition, before it looks at an enrollment cap.

Western’s enrollment has increased from 14,543 students in 1997 to approximately 17,770 this year.

Provost Barbara Burch said Western is dealing with its increased enrollment now by maximizing resources and existing facilities. But, hiring more full-time faculty is the key, she said.

“That is probably the most compelling need we have right now – to make sure that we continue to do things as well as we are able,” Burch said.

According to the proposed resolution that failed Tuesday, the university’s budget, as well as the state’s budget, has not kept pace with Western’s enrollment. The proposal said that by not implementing an enrollment cap, Western is overtaxing its resources and reducing university reputation, standards and marketability.

Some SGA members agreed with the wording.

“I think uncontrolled growth, rapid growth, is really important to look at and examine, said Dana Lockhart, a co-author of the resolution. “I think that we’re growing too fast, and I think it’s having a negative impact on faculty and staff and on students on every level.”

But, an enrollment cap is a measure Western officials are doing their best to avoid. Burch said a cap is an option, but there are better choices.

“Indeed, (SGA is) right that we are certainly stretching our resources,” Burch said. “I do not believe that we have come to a point where we have negatively affected quality, but I think certainly how we’re going to deal with this considerable enrollment surge and what we’re going to do to make sure we sustain that quality.”

President Gary Ransdell agreed.

“I don’t think an enrollment cap would be the best way to approach our options over the few years,” Ransdell said. “Our problems are more associated with a lack of funding from the state, rather than the growth of our students.”

Some members of SGA felt that the issue of an enrollment cap was not fairly debated.

“If we are going to be student representatives, then we need to be prepared to go for the long haul, to burn the midnight oil for the students concerning these kinds of important issues,” said Brandon Copeland, SGA’s vice president of Administration. “Unfortunately, last night was not the kind of high quality of debate that such an important issue deserves, and I’m thinking that’s one of the reasons it didn’t find much support in congress.”

Reach Jessica Sasseen at [email protected]