Campus / News / Teresa Amott / April 5, 2012

Amott proposes growing college

In the next couple of years, Knox might see its student body grow little by little, if it goes according to plan.

In the March 2012 Report to the Faculty, President Teresa Amott stated the “possibility of growing the student body by 100 students over the next four years in order to provide new tuition revenue for needed strategic investments.”

Amott said the main reasons for the increase are to have more faculty, offer more courses and to have more financial resources to provide more student services and opportunities.

Professor of Economics Rich Stout said most of Knox’s budget is supported from revenue from tuition and room and board fees.

“So 100 new students would add a lot of revenue to support the budget,” Stout said.

According to the Knox website, Knox has a current student body of 1,420 students, with 100 more increasing the number to 1,520. With the “planned growth” happening along four years, Amott said she does not think the intimacy of the campus is going to change.

“We would still be small, we would still be intimate, we would still be friendly,” Amott said.

As part of planned growth, Amott said the number of Knox students would not start growing next year and the growth would start with only 15-20 more students in the entering class.

Dean Debbie Southern said that in terms of student services, Knox should be able to absorb the starting growth of 15 additional students.

“If you grow slowly, then it should be easier to start to accommodate. If you added 100 students in one year, we couldn’t handle that. You’d have trouble with services but if you grow incrementally, then you know what’s happening and can accommodate accordingly,” Southern said.

Possible student service programs to have additional staff include the Center for Career & Pre-Professional Development Center and the Center for Teaching and Learning. Having one more person on staff at the career center would mean meeting with twice as many students than possible currently and providing more outreach and career charting, Amott said.

Dean Southern said that they will have to look at the whole picture, of students and services trying to provide, in order to “organize those services, those staff people so that you meet students’ needs in the best way possible.”

With an increased student body to a little over 1,500, Amott said Knox would still be one of the smaller colleges of the ACM, along with Ripon, Cornell and Beloit colleges.

“I don’t think anyone chooses them because they are smaller than Knox. In other words, I don’t think we’re going to lose market share to them,” Amott said.

Amott said that Knox does not want to be so small that they cannot have students from all over the world, as some really small schools suffer from “inadequate diversity.”

“And growing by 100 students, we would want to be sure that we made that a diverse growth as well, to keep diversity that we have on campus,” Amott said.

Junior Hatim Mustaly, an international student from India, also said that having more students on campus would increase diversity.

“If you have more people — it depends on where they get the students from — if they keep what they have right now … where the certain percent of students that are still international, then I think that would be fine,” Mustaly said.

Mustaly said as long as the increased number of students would not affect the attention that students get from the faculty, then growth is a good thing. Amott said it was essential to keep the student to faculty ratio constant at 12:1, so the number of faculty would grow by about eight.

More faculty could relieve class enrollment pressures and offer more courses in different areas. Amott said that Knox needs to make sure that it does not have gaps in its curriculum and with “some of our really small departments, it is harder to offer multiple fields, subfields.”

Senior Caroline Kionka, a German major, said the German department has two full-time faculty members and one Professor Emeritus who occasionally teaches courses and may be officially retiring soon. The department also faces the possibility of losing its chair, according to Kionka.

“We’d probably need more professors in that field,” Kionka said.

She also said with the Environmental Studies department tending to have class cross-listings, it would be good to have more full-time staff there.

Stout, who teaches one of the most popular majors at Knox (economics), was not concerned with overcrowding in classrooms with the increased enrollment because students are spread through many departments.

“That’s fine with me to have slightly bigger classes if that’s what it meant to have another 100 students on campus. But my guess is if had an additional 100 students … maybe econ might get five or six of those. That’s not going to increase class sizes in the econ department very much, if you think about the math,” Stout said.

Amott said it was up to the faculty, working with the Dean to identify priority areas for expansion.

“I think it’s a good idea to get more students on campus, have more revenue. … We can serve our students even better,” Stout said.

Addressing the concern of housing for more students, Amott said that growth is not happening right away, so they can make plans for additional housing within the next two years. Some of the options include renovating the buildings for the career center and Alumni Affairs as theme houses for students after these centers are moved into Alumni Hall. Amott said she also liked the idea of having housing downtown.

Southern talked about looking at residential spaces that might be underutilized.

“We’re not talking about cramming people into areas. You’re just talking about looking at it and thinking, ‘Wow, we can reconfigure this,’” Southern said.

Amott also said that there might not be 1,500 students present on campus to need housing if some of those students study abroad. Amott hopes to grow student study abroad participation by adding different countries, broader course selections and more financial support for students to go abroad.

“I think that’s just essential to a contemporary 21st-century education that students have experiences abroad, and as long as we take that seriously … that diminishes the on-campus impact of growing 100 students,” Amott said.

Amott said she plans on gathering student input about the plan to increase the study body. She said that if she heard from students “that the intimacy of the campus has been undermined, then we would probably pull back because that’s a defining feature of the institution.”

Sheena Leano

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