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Engineering enrollment could rise

Although the University is still only considering a plan to add 200 students to the undergraduate student body, officials believe most of the additional students would likely enter as engineers.

The Pratt School of Engineering's recent increased investments in faculty and facilities��foremost among them the $97 million Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering Medicine and Applied Sciences under construction��created a natural inclination to increase the engineering student body, a plan that has been hinted at in recent years, Provost Peter Lange said.

However, the potential distribution of new students between Pratt and Trinity College is yet to be determined, and the Board of Trustees--who will ultimately approve the decision��will not officially consider the issue this weekend during their meeting.

"There really isn't any 'pressure' to grow the student body," Pratt Dean Kristina Johnson and Pratt Senior Associate Dean of Education Phil Jones wrote in a joint e-mail. "With the addition of 20 or so faculty and the new facility, it is only logical to look at the feasibility of increasing the undergraduate enrollment in Pratt."

Last month, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William Chafe announced the proposed increase as a means of offsetting rising costs. The added tuition would generate an additional $2 million to $4 million.

Lange agreed that the change would increase revenues, but argued that growth in Pratt would be the real motivation. "It's only natural that an institution that is making that kind of investment would increase in size," Lange said. "Increasing enrollment would not be [intended] to make more money, but that will be an effect."

Pratt could handle a maximum boost of 50 students per year for four years--increasing its undergraduate enrollment from approximately 900 now to about 1100, Johnson and Jones said. Half of Pratt students' tuition, and all of Trinity students', feeds into the Arts and Sciences budget.

Before any new students could be added, however, campus facilities would have to catch up with the growth. Additional students would require a new dormitory on East Campus, a revised plan for upperclassmen on West Campus and perhaps increased dining amenities, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask said. This would delay any growth until at least fall 2005.

To increase the class size by 50, the University would need to accept 100 more applicants, Director of Admissions Christoph Guttentag said. Officials agreed that they would not increase the size of the student body to the detriment of its quality and selectivity. Last year, the school accepted 22.5 percent of its applicants, down from 24.5 percent the year before, but is still less selective than its peer institutions.

"There might be slight changes, but I doubt that they would be particularly noticeable, either in the classroom or in the Duke community," Guttentag wrote in an e-mail. "Both the Trinity and Pratt applicant pools are large enough and strong enough to handle an increase of this magnitude without significantly affecting the quality of the student body."

Trinity Dean Robert Thompson said that although Pratt's increased facilities would allow it to absorb additional students easily, the real determining factor of which school would get the newcomers would be on who applies.

"Everything depends on the strength of the applicant pool," he said.

Thompson added that any increase would require changes to class offerings, like adding more first-year Writing 20 sections.

The presence of additional students would enrich the engineering school's curriculum, its deans said.

"Having more students would allow for adding more student-driven activities, as well as strengthening existing programs and projects," Johnson and Jones wrote. "Also, a larger faculty and student body will make it feasible to broaden course offerings, particularly at the advanced levels, and enhance research opportunities for undergraduates."


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