New England College’s long term plan to increase undergraduate enrollment took a leap in the right direction this fall with 467 new students. NEC’s next largest class was 423 students back in 1984.
In the last four years, NEC has averaged 341 first year students, according to Director of Admissions Brad Poznanski. With this year’s hoped for yet surprisingly large class, housing arrangements had to be made to accommodate extra students this semester.
“We knew back in May we’d have close to 500, and we knew we had to find about 100 additional beds,” said President Michele Perkins in a Concord Monitor interview.
With a large number of additional students to find beds for, three buildings formerly used as faculty and staff office spaces were converted into residence halls. Among the hustle and bustle of preparations for the semester was the challenge of renovating Lewin, Bridge and Fitch house in time for student’s arrival.
“Converting what was previously office space to residential space took a lot of planning and time to complete,” said Director of Residential Life and Housing Doreen Long. “In the end, the work took us right up to opening day but I am really happy with the way those residence halls turned out.”
Students of all classes have been responding positively to the large number of new students and the new housing opportunities found in Lewin, Bridge and Fitch. Sophomore Alexis Ramsey lives in a single in Fitch House and says it is “nice and quiet.”
“We were pretty nervous moving in because we wanted all the students to be happy,” admits Area Coordinator Graziano DiCiaula.
The large incoming class elicited excitement as well as commotion throughout the first month of classes for students and staff, but DiCiaula said, “All the concerns that we had moving into the year, have faded away. It’s been really wonderful so far.”
“The past few weeks everyone has been really excited,” said Residential Aid Brittany Felton. “I’ve ran into plenty of sleepovers while I’m on duty and I’ve even been invited to some movie nights that are being hosted by the new students.” She also comments that it is “really sweet seeing how close” students are getting given “it’s only been five weeks” since move in.
“Honestly, I cannot say enough about how welcoming all the students have been to each other,” agrees Long. “I believe most students realize this is a special year with the largest class ever. Everyone is doing their best to make it work and be a welcoming roommate and positive member of the community.”
Along with the positive experiences students have experienced this semester, rumors began circulating around campus about residence halls being over-populated. But, after doing research and speaking with many students, rumors of uncomfortable living quarters have not been substantiated.
There were several rooms that were larger than standard doubles that were converted into triples to accommodate the larger class prior to move in day DiCiaula explained.
“We had to be creative when they first got here so we could figure out how to configure the rooms and we did our best to make the rooms as comfortable as possible and I think a lot of the folks are happy,” said DiCiaula.
DiCiaula revealed that there were a small number of students who expressed interest in not being in a triple, and any issues that have arisen have been resolved quickly and efficiently.
“We went ahead and granted their requests and moved them to places where they wanted to be,” said DiCiaula.
Long was also able to speak on this. “Once the dust settled and we identified where we had some open vacancies, we were able to work with all students who requested a room change.”
In total, twenty single rooms were converted into double rooms and seventeen double rooms were converted to triples to accommodate students this year. Along with some rooms being larger capacity this year, several common rooms were reduced in size and one was completely eliminated.
In Rowe Barn, the lounge area was converted to rooms for students. “In West and Colby, the common rooms were reduced in size, but not totally eliminated,” said Long.
During an investigation to further solidify the claims of positive living situations, the most common complaints were not related to room size.
A first year student, who did not want to give her name, told The NewEnglander, “Colby is fine but it’s always hot in there and they don’t have air conditioning.”
Several students are dissatisfied with the temperature of the residence halls and of the shower water, but the number of roommates and size of the rooms did not come up. Student Sadan Codjoe spoke to this stating, “I live in East and I love it aside from the temperature issues.”
There is a total of 993 students on campus this year and 2,793 total students enrolled in classes including traditional students, full-time graduate, and online students, explained Poznanski.
Looking toward the future, NEC plans to grow to 1500 undergraduate students, begging the question, where will they live?
Long says nothing is off the table. “It takes a lot of time and planning to foresee what our students will need in the future, but all options are on the table as we speak.”