For the past few years, Wheaton has gradually increased the number of students accepted to its incoming classes. As many students have already experienced, housing, for first year students especially, has become slightly overcrowded as a result.
The college’s design capacity with its current residence halls is around 1,500, yet the number of students at Wheaton is now up to about 1,600. Despite this, Associate Director of Residential Life Edward Burnett said that the number of forced triples has not increased yet, due to the careful delegation of vacancies across campus.
Burnett reported that in the past few years, Residential Life has improved its process of organizing living situations so residence halls do not become overcrowded. Despite the high number of forced triples for first year students, the primary cause of room changes is personal issues with roommates, rather than the size of the rooms themselves. Typically, the only concerns Burnett receives about room size are from incoming students with more than one roommate who are unsure of what to expect.
With these matters in mind, the overcrowding situation has yet to become a major problem for the school, and it should not be for some time yet. However, because Wheaton intends to continue in its growth of class sizes, concerns remain.
The increase in student numbers is not without reason. Wheaton is a very tuition-driven college, and as it becomes more financially secure, it will become a serious competitor with other colleges for freshmen. However, Burnett does note that “part of what makes Wheaton so special is its size”, and added that the administration’s intent is not to make Wheaton a large college, but to keep the small and close-knit community that sets Wheaton apart from other schools.
The plan is not to increase class sizes by the hundreds, but instead to add a small amount each year. This way, the growth will be helpful, but barely noticeable.
Because Wheaton plans to continue its increase in numbers for the next few years before stabilizing, the school has heavily entertained the option of building a new residence hall. Wheaton is not yet at the point where it is reasonable to begin planning extensively for the building, but the idea remains on the horizon as long as attendance numbers increase.