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Increasing enrollment is unnecessary

Posted on 04.24.2013

The University of Indianapolis is currently home to approximately 5,000 students.  Higher than the average private university enrollment, which, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, is 1,920. However, one common question among alumni, students and faculty is whether UIndy should be growing or is the perfect size for its type of university.
We have a student-to-teacher ratio of 14:1. This means that the professors here can become closer to the students. Compare this to Indiana University,  where the ratio is 19:1. While this does not seem like a lot, we need to remember that IU reports an enrollment of more than 40,000 students, eight times that of our school. Here at UIndy, I know that I cannot get away with slacking off. The professors all know me and know the extent of my abilities.
Another aspect I like about this smaller university is that the introductory courses are  filled with familiar and friendly faces and are usually no larger than 30 people.
At a bigger school like IU or Ball State University,  introductory and general education classes are much larger, sometimes in the hundreds. At UIndy, we get this sort of small town atmosphere in a big city, which I really enjoy.
One common complaint I hear  among my peers is that there is not a whole lot to do on the weekends. This is understandable considering  a large number of our approximately 5,000 students are commuters. But would a larger student body really lessen the feeling of boredom? The problem is a lack of things within walking distance of the school. We have to drive downtown or to Greenwood for any real adventures. Granted, we have a movie theatre, a Kroger, and most importantly, a nearby Chinese restaurant, but these aren’t really that exciting unless you’re looking for something to do off campus for just a few hours.
We are college students, and going out should not be a chore. But what does that have to do with our school? Because the UIndy is the largest employer on the south side, according to Sue Willey, vice president for intercollegiate athletics, the university holds a lot of influence.
In his inauguration speech, President Robert Manuel spoke about making our school an anchor for the south side rather than an island. We, the student body, can contribute to this in a major way. We have money, and businesses like to make money. So we need to remind small business owners that if they build stores, we will come.
We do not need to expand the school  to bring in business interests. In fact, 5,000 mouths hungry for different foods and 10,000 hands grabbing for clothes, movies, games, books  and Frisbees should be enough to draw businesses.
So why haven’t these businesses arrived already? Probably because they fear that they cannot compete with the downtown flair.
I grew up in Elkhart, Ind. Elkhart can be compared to the south side: few businesses, little to do and little to admire. Elkhart knows that it cannot compete with the trendy atmosphere of Michiwaka’s University Park Mall. So what does Elkhart do? It finds its niche.
This is exactly what the south side needs. Industry has moved, and our nation is making the transition into a service- based economy. The south side needs to bring in businesses that will hire and train people who need jobs, in order to clean up joblessness and poverty.
The second thing we need is a massive campaign of urban renewal. No tour guide ever said to go off campus by a few blocks and admire the “beauty that is the cracked cement, dead grass, abandoned parking lots and run-down houses.”
“But we’re just students,” you may say in a totally understandable moment of disbelief. We need to stop seeing ourselves as just students. We have influence. We fund this school. We can reach out to the school and the city and make this side of town worth seeing.
UIndy does not need to grow its population or campus to become a better school. We need to grow our influence in the south side community.


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