As a student of UW-Whitewater, one of the more common complaints that are heard around campus buildings and inside classrooms is the overcrowding of residence halls. UW-Whitewater has 12 residence halls on campus and its newest addition was Starin Hall, which was built in 2010. Up until that point, a residence hall had not been built in over 40 years. UW-Whitewater’s student enrollment is also growing at a steady rate. While it is not increasing at an alarming pace, UW-Whitewater is known for being a suitcase college and if the school wants to change its reputation, a better living situation made available to students may become necessary if the school is becoming more populated.
While UW-Whitewater’s student enrollment number is increasing yearly, with currently over 10,750 undergraduates, the room for students to live on campus is starting to become constricted. The current acceptance rate at UW-Whitewater for incoming freshmen is 70 percent. According to Oncampuscollegeplanning.com, the national average acceptance rate is 67 percent. Smaller schools in the UW-system, such as UW-Stevens Point, UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Whitewater are all around the 70 to 80 percent acceptance rate mark. This means the majority of smaller schools in the UW-system are looking to increase its overall student population at a steady rate.
Terri Crumley, who is currently the Dean of Admissions at Mount Mercy University, was the Dean of Admissions at UW-Stevens Point up until November 2013. Crumley said UW-Stevens Point was looking to push its total enrollment number up to 10,000, as its current number is at 9,296. Crumley said that with the school trying to boost its number, this did not necessarily mean that admission standards were dropping. She said that whether she accepts a student coming out of high school or not is based on many different factors. One of the factors that mean more for a student attempting to attend a school in the state of Wisconsin is the ACT test.
“In general, the 20-25 (ACT score) range is a solid student,” Crumley said. “Below that, it’s not that the student is bad, because I have admitted students that have scored 18’s and even 17’s. It’s just that some kids are poor test takers, so you have to weigh all of that out.”
She also said that fewer students appear to be college-ready coming out of high school. This means that the Deans of Admissions at all schools have to dig deeper and find out more about a student before they do accept them, even though acceptance rates are high across the country. Kathy Brady, a journalism professor at UW-Whitewater, talked about how the school was growing, but higher overall class sizes are something that she has not noticed in her classroom.
“Standards haven’t been lowered,” Brady said. “We simply aren’t cutting off enrollment as early as we used to. Due to budget cuts at the state level, it is important to at least maintain our new, higher enrollment level.”
UW-Whitewater is commonly known for its school of business and it’s one of the biggest reasons why students attend the university. Marketing professor Shannon Cummins said she hasn’t noticed a difference in terms of class sizes even though the campus is growing. The classes she teaches are capped to allow a maximum number of students so that classes don’t become overcrowded. Cummins said the school of business is looking to switch its schedule around because more existing classes are being offered. This entails that some classes that used to be scheduled as Tuesday and Thursday classes would switch to being classes that meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She also said UW-Whitewater could consider raising its standards solely based on the college of business being as highly regarded as it is.
“If the college of business wanted to make [admissions] tougher, whether or not that would be a good thing, honestly, I don’t know,” Cummins said. “I think it’s important that if you do come to a school and want to change majors, you should be able to because I don’t think any 18-year-old should have to decide what they major in. I think there is a rationale for having the same admission requirements for all colleges and majors at a school.”
UW-Whitewater’s Director of Admissions, Jeffrey Blahnik, said the UW-system has a growth agenda, so every school in the system is looking to grow in some fashion. Blahnik also said that the admission deadline for freshmen was cut a month earlier this year, yet the number of freshmen applications increased by four percent.
“Thus far, our average ACT and GPA among students who have both applied and been admitted is the highest they have been in the past five years,” Blahnik said. “We do not plan to lower our admission standards assuming the strong interest continues.”
According to Collegeapps.about.com, UW-Whitewater’s incoming freshman averages between a 20 and 25 score on the ACT test. At UW-Stevens Point, the average is 21-25, UW-River Falls’ average is 20-24, UW-Platteville’s average is 20-25 and UW-Eau Claire’s average is 22-26. From a numbers standpoint, each smaller UW-system school is roughly around the same when it comes to what types of students academically they are allowing into their universities. UW-Madison tops the list of UW-system schools, with their incoming freshman averaging a 26-30 on the ACT. With each of the smaller UW-system schools allowing the same kinds of students into its universities from an academic standpoint, UW-Whitewater has to separate themselves from the other schools in the state in a variety of ways outside of academics in order to persuade incoming freshman to choose UW-Whitewater.
Positives and Negatives of UW-Whitewater
One of the ways UW-Whitewater attracts students to its school is its geographic location. Whitewater, Wis. is not the biggest city in Wisconsin, or in the southern part of the state. What the campus prides itself on geographically is being far enough away from Milwaukee and Chicago that high school seniors who are from those areas can get away from home without being too far away to make the trip coming back home seem less daunting. Milwaukee is roughly an hour away, while Chicago is around two hours south of Whitewater. Incoming freshmen from in the state pay in-state tuition, which is around half the price of what out-of-state tuition is. According to Colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com, the in-state tuition for UW-Whitewater is $7,578.
One geographic disadvantage UW-Whitewater has in terms of tuition rates is that the school is not a part of the receiving end for the Midwest Student Exchange Program. As an example, an incoming freshman from Chicago, which is outside the state of Wisconsin, can go to UW-Stevens Point and pay a rate that is in-between the in-state tuition price and out-of-state tuition price. Blahnik said the school’s total number of incoming freshmen who are coming from Illinois is growing significantly, as 16 percent of the 2013-14 freshmen come from Illinois.
The goal of the Midwest Student Exchange Program is to help keep students in the Midwest that want to go to college out of the state they went to high school in. If UW-Whitewater becomes a part of this program, it would help lure students that are or would be facing financial troubles when attending college. Another advantage UW-Whitewater has over smaller schools in the UW-system when attracting incoming freshmen to boost its total enrollment is the school’s athletic success.
UW-Whitewater competes in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) with many of the smaller UW-system schools. Because UW-Whitewater competes in Division-III, the school is not allowed to give athletic scholarships. Students who do not want to go to a bigger school, or want to play a sport but are not good enough to receive a scholarship to play there, may try out for teams or be recruited by UW-Whitewater to play for them. UW-Whitewater has over 20 teams, as well as recreational sports teams and its tradition in many sports is unmatched compared to the other schools that compete in the WIAC. The football team will have a chance to win its fourth national championship in five seasons on Dec. 20 when they face the University of Mount Union. Blahnik said that according to surveys, the number one reason a student chooses one college over another is academics, but he said that many students cite UW-Whitewater’s athletic success as a major positive to them when comparing them with other schools. One other advantage UW-Whitewater has over smaller UW-system schools is the campus’ easy accessibility for students with physical disabilities.
According to Colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com, New Mobility magazine ranked UW-Whitewater as one of the top 10 disability friendly public universities in the United States. Many of the buildings on campus are wheelchair accessible, such as the Young Auditorium. The Young Auditorium offers complimentary wheelchairs, wheelchair accessible seating and wheelchair accessible parking. It also offers easy foreign language interpretation with captioning devices as well as headsets and braille and other large print materials to help aid students with disabilities. The aforementioned reasons are part of the reason why, more so than ever, incoming freshmen want to and are applying to attend UW-Whitewater. With the boost in enrollment comes the question of whether or not there are enough housing options available to students who want to live on campus.
Before UW-Whitewater built Starin Hall in 2010, the campus had not seen a new residence hall in over 40 years. The campus now has 12 residential buildings and Starin received immediate interest from students the semester it became available according to UW-Whitewater’s Dean of Residence Life, Frank Bartlett.
“In the fall of 2010 we did the reapplication process and we had 700 more bodies interested in [living there] than we had spaces for,” Bartlett said. “Since that point, it’s clearly more popular, but some students have gotten accustomed to the fact that they’re not going to get in, so I think some students have self-selected not to apply. At this point, we have around 100 students or so now that want to get into Starin but don’t [end up getting in].”
Starin has been recognized for its energy-saving features and when it was being built, Bartlett said they were shooting for the building to receive a LEED silver certification level, but it ended up surpassing the goal and captured the gold certification level. The LEED rating system offers four certification levels, which are Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Bartlett said he knew the residence halls on campus were old, so if they were going to build a new living area, it would have to impress students aesthetically and be an energy-efficient building. Also, some of the older buildings have already had renovations made to them and the renovations that will be made to the buildings that haven’t been remodeled will also go through renovations that are geared toward enhancing sustainability.
Some of Starin’s sustainable features include censored lights that only turn on when people activate them to turn on when they walk near them. Low-flow faucets for showers and sinks are used as well to help save water and the carpet used throughout the building is made from recycled content. Current buildings that will be getting renovated in the future to help enhance students’ living experiences on campus include Wellers Hall, Fischer Hall and the Arey/Fricker renovation. The Arey/Fricker renovation is planning on taking place throughout 2014-16. Outside of upgrading the buildings’ features from a sustainability standpoint, the two will become connected once the renovation is completed. In an article from Gazettextra.com, UW-Whitewater’s project manager, Mary Kaster, said that during this time period the projects will make student housing even more so crowded.
While the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years may leave residence halls as crowded as ever due to renovations of older buildings, plans for adding new residence halls have already been made. Bartlett said that if all goes well with what the master plan has in store for the campus, the newest residence hall will be built by 2017. The second will come in 2019 and the other two that they plan on for sure building will be in place by 2031-32. Three of the possible six new halls will take place of where the Wells towers currently are because a facilities assessment was done to Wells and the rooms and hallways were noted as being too small. Some of the updates they wanted to make to the Wells towers would have made the rooms even smaller, so the plan is to completely knock them down and replace them with the newer halls once they are built.
“Wells is a dinosaur, but realistically you can’t tear it down until other buildings are in place to replace it,” Bartlett said.
While each of the renovations to the current residence halls will add more beds (25 to Fricker and 15 to Arey), if UW-Whitewater keeps growing at the rate it is, these renovations alone will likely not be able to house more people than the campus already houses on campus. According to Colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com, 40 percent of students attending UW-Whitewater live on campus, while 60 percent live off campus. Bartlett said those numbers are about where he wants UW-Whitewater to be. The perception that UW-Whitewater is a suitcase college may be true, but the reality is that while the school is looking to grow, the university may only want to house a certain number of students for the time being. This may be the reason why renovations to older residence halls are taking a forefront to building new residence halls.
“We would be hard-pressed to house a greater percentage than that,” Bartlett said. “We have a freshman and sophomore housing requirement currently in place and we’ve been releasing a lot of sophomores from that requirement just because we don’t have the space.”
Bartlett talked about the current living situations for students living in the residence halls as the way they are now and how an incoming freshman may be coming from a home where they have their own room and a bigger space than what a dormitory might provide for them. He said students can come to UW-Whitewater and be thrown into a different situation than they’re used to, but with so many students living on the same floor; a positive experience can come from that. In addition to a smaller space in general, students living in dormitories typically live in rooms that are doubles, where they are living with another student. According to Reslife.uww.edu, doubles cost $1800 per semester. The suites in Starin Hall cost $2,680. Bartlett said the rates will continue to increase over the years, but they currently rank as the ninth-cheapest option out of 13 schools in the UW-system in terms of pricing costs of living on campus.
From an academic standpoint, UW-Whitewater’s standards are at around the same level as the other smaller schools in the UW-system, which are all trying to grow its overall student population. The standards are not lowering, yet more students are being allowed into UW-Whitewater schools compared to other schools across the country. With this boost in total number of students, the housing situations have been looked in to, and renovations are set to take place to older residential halls and building new residential living areas are a part of the school’s master plan, which is set to the school year of 2031-32. UW-Whitewater appears to have its plan for the future set and if everything goes accordingly, the next 20 years for the school can be seen as a growing community with new and improved housing options for students of the future.