Anyone with a pair of ears and a Facebook profile can tell you about this summer’s raging conflict: “forced triples” and an overwhelming air of panic. The Office of Admissions will tell you that this new population crisis emerged out of an underestimated first-year yield rate. Regardless, packed residence halls, complaints and a sheer headcount reveals a record number of first-year students on campus this fall.

With Fairfield’s undergraduate population already on the rise, this 150 student increase to the first-year yield rate stretches our population curve steeply upwards, a statistic given by Marissa Lischinsky, Associate Director of Student Engagement for Transition and Retention, in conversation. This growing number of undergraduates, however, may reveal a bigger change in the University’s culture and standings. 

While the increase may seem marginal, with a school our size, even a minor increase in class size is noticeable. Senior admissions fellow Christina Cardona discusses this change, saying “I definitely feel like I notice more students on campus this year than I did freshman year.” She attributes this to the fact that “over the past few years, the class sizes have grown.”

Facing the brunt of the situation, first-year Meghan Panzer describes her experience living in a newly converted triple. Optimistically, she says, “I like having a triple because I like my roommates.” On the issue of space, however, she concedes that it does get cramped: “I wish I had more space in the room, my bed is kind of close to the ceiling.”

Pushing the logistics of the situation aside, these questions remain: why is our population growing? Is this a good thing?

Data from the Office of Institutional Research reveals that both the Dolan School of Business  and the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies are gaining considerable traction among entering students, as the number of undergraduates within each of the schools rapidly increases. This population trend has occured as the DSB and the School of Nursing and Health Studies have soared the ranks. 

The DSB has gained national recognition over the past few years, ranking within the top 25 business schools in the United States. Further, the 2020 Nursing Schools Almanac placed Fairfield’s Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies as the 46th best nursing program in the country, and 5th in the New England Region

Notably as well, the class of 2025 has the highest academic qualifications of any class in Fairfield’s history. Perhaps then, this high yield rate of particularly qualified students, coupled with the University’s augmenting rankings, is a sign that Fairfield is becoming more competitive. Our growing standards suggest that Fairfield is beginning to shed its dreaded “safety school” reputation. 

I believe our developing competitive status offers an incredible opportunity for the University to claim the standing it deserves. Having been raised by Stag-mates and their many Stag friends, I have seen firsthand how Fairfield’s academics and general experience forms successful, well-rounded and happy adults. I think it is about time we come to better value all that Fairfield University has to offer. In the words of my mother, Jennifer Tomosivitch ‘91, “Fairfield changes lives,” and it ought to be rightfully recognized.

Having a few years’ experience working in admissions, Christina Cardona also alludes to this academic theory behind our growth. She attributes Fairfield’s population growth to several factors, also citing improvements in the DSB as a potential catalyst. She says: “I think that Fairfield’s popularity has grown as a result of the variety of new developments such as the 2019 new and improved Dolan School of Business.” Even judging from word of mouth, the DSB’s rising status certainly seems to be a leading factor in new students’ decision to come to Fairfield.

Beyond this, however, she notes that this growth may be related to “the caliber of Fairfield’s academic rigor and tight-knit community, and growing diversity.” Despite all of her experience and thoughtful reasoning, however, Cardona admits that this growth is an “admissions puzzle”.

As a data-driven “finance guy” and a proud Fairfield alumnus from the Class of ‘91, my father, Christopher Tomosivitch says that the increasing yield rate is “a statistical anomaly.” With an applicant pool as big as Fairfield’s, a 2-3 percent increase in the yield rate could be completely random, he notes. This seems to be a probable scenario as well.

Rumor has it, however, that Fairfield’s growing population is intentional. Perhaps we’re trying to become “the next Villanova”, as many students have argued. If that is the case, and national notoriety is our goal, our efforts to ameliorate our academic standings is certainly a step in the right direction. 

But what is Fairfield, if not a school introduced to strangers as “a small Catholic school in Southern Connecticut”? Some students will say that Fairfield’s cozy size is what makes it so loveable. This statement holds true for myself and many other Stags, making this ever-increasing class growth difficult to reconcile.

Junior Lily Carnicelli, says Fairfield “is the perfect size”. Having transferred from Penn State largely because of its population size, she “loves walking around campus and being able to see friendly faces.” Further, she appreciates the dynamic at Fairfield that allows students to “create personal connections with staff and peers,” and the simple fact that “professors know your name.” 

In my experience, Fairfield’s smaller size makes life on campus much more enjoyable. The fact that people know your name makes Fairfield feel like home.

I’d argue also, however, that Fairfield gets its charm from the way it educates- the way that it forms students as men and women for others. An increase of 150 students cannot take that away. No matter where we fall on the population spectrum, so long as faculty and staff continue to engage and care for students in our uniquely Ignatian way, Fairfield University cannot and will not let you get lost in the crowd. 

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