Small is beautiful

Kenyon contemplates a modest reduction in enrollment

Kenyon, which cherishes the advantages of smallness, has been looking carefully at enrollment trends. Now, after nearly a year of study, an enrollment planning committee is recommending a modest reduction in the size of the College's student population--a change aimed in part at ensuring that all students live on campus.

Reporting to the Board of Trustees last fall, the committee proposed a new target enrollment of 1,575, allowing for a fluctuation of twenty-five students above or below that goal. Currently, 1,639 students are enrolled at Kenyon, including forty-six who have permission to live off campus in various Gambier apartments and College-owned houses. When students participating in off-campus programs are added, the total enrollment climbs to 1,725.

"We did not make an intentional decision for the College to grow over the years," says Provost Gregory Spaid, who chaired the committee. "It happened as a result of good intentions. Our applicant pool got better and better, and it became harder and harder to turn away these very qualified students. But we decided that the best way to ensure the quality of the experience for students, faculty, and the community was to decrease the enrollment slightly."

The steady growth in enrollment has had a significant impact on housing. In recent years, many residence-hall lounges were converted into student rooms, and doubles sometimes became triples. The need for more housing also forced Kenyon to allow some students to live off campus, compromising its commitment to a fully residential community.

"Traditionally, the fact that all students lived and dined on campus helped give the College its sense of cohesion," says Spaid, a 1968 graduate. "It's part of our identity. A smaller enrollment will help us preserve that identity."

Kenyon would reach the committee's goal in four years by limiting future incoming classes to approximately 436 students. "One of the things that we continually hear from students is that they really feel they are able to form meaningful personal relationships with faculty members," Spaid says. "We think lowering the enrollment is one way to ensure that continues to happen for students in the future."