Editorial: Pratt's possible expansion

Administrators have long been discussed the possibility of adding 50 undergraduate students per class, a plan that has the potential to benefit the University in general and specifically the Pratt School of Engineering.

Last month, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William Chafe suggested the additional students as a way to increase revenue and offset rising costs. Increasing revenue should not be the primary goal of any increase, and administrators have achnolwledged this, focusing instead on the practical and monetary benefits the increase could bring, especially to Pratt.

Provost Peter Lange has pointed to those reasons as the motivation behind the possible increase. The expansion is a logical extension of other investments that have been made in the school over several years. The school has worked to boost its faculty size and its capital resources, allowing it to accommodate more students.

Additionally, the extra students would help spur the school's future growth. Currently, the school is too small to allow for the breadth and depth of course offerings that a top-flight engineering school should have. A greater number of students in each class would expand the opportunities available to all of Pratt's students.

Of course, significant obstacles remain before Duke can add 200 students. For starters, there are simply not enough beds available on East Campus, where all freshmen are housed, to accommodate an additional 50 students per class. Administrators would need to build a new dorm or somehow alter the existing dorm in order to accommodate additional students. Moreover, other necessary capital changes, such as East Campus eating facility improvements are necessary to handle an influx of 50 more students.

Those concerns would be magnified when additional students become upperclassmen and move to West Campus. Under the current housing plan, all sophomores must live on West, which would mean 50 more juniors and seniors forced to live off-campus, in Trent Drive Hall or on Central Campus. Therefore, in order to implement this plan, administrators will need to increase accommodations on West or Central as well as East.

Another very real concern is the quality of the applicant pool. Pratt is already less selective than many of top engineering schools, and adding 50 additional students would only dilute the pool further. Christoph Guttentag, director of undergraduate admissions, claims the pool is sufficient to fill the additional space, but Dean Kristina Johnson will likely need to increase recruitement to attract more top applicants than the school has received in the past.

The University could implement a gradual plan to lessen the negative effects of the increase. Letting in a handful of extra students every year for several years until the full 200 is reached would lessen the impact and give everyone more time to adjust to the new situation.


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