Freshmen always look the same. They’re easily spotted wearing lanyards with ID’s safely around their necks, or doing lap after lap in C-Street trying to figure out what to eat. What’s not the same this year is how many of them there are. As class sizes grow each year, Seattle University’s warm embrace is becoming more of a tight squeeze.
Many events were held the first week of school for the largest freshman class Seattle U has ever seen.
An education from Seattle U has never been more in demand as the college celebrates its 125th year as a Pacific Northwest Jesuit institution. This year’s freshman class will be the biggest in the school’s history, and sophomore retention hit its highest mark ever. With intimate classes and programs growing in recognition, the university campus is a desired community of scholars. As both the demand for higher education and the city’s popularity soar, Seattle U is working to offer all its students the experience they came looking for.
This year the university enrolled over 1300 new students for the class of 2020 after retaining 87 percent of last year’s freshman class, according to collegedata.com. Nestled in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and consisting of 50 acres of urban campus, Seattle U is an oasis in the middle of a bustling city. Despite its small size, the university has a comfortable feel that’s relieving for students amidst the rigor of academic pursuits.
Freshman Lucy Wasson from Monroe, Wash. applied to other schools like the University of Washington and the University of Portland, but was never as interested in them as she was Seattle University.
“I live 30 minutes away and it was important for me to stay close to home,” Wasson said. “I ultimately chose SU rather than UW because of class sizes and the business and law program. I get both degrees in six years instead of seven.”
Ben Clarke is from Seattle and plans to study Marketing and Data Analytics.
“I chose Seattle U over other schools because it was smaller, which means you actually know your professors,” Clarke said. “I also chose it because of the reputation of the business school over other programs I applied to. The fact that there was also a men’s crew team sealed the deal for me having rowed for five years.”
Regardless of what brought them here, the one thing most of these students have in common is a desire for the highest quality education—something they believe comes from small, intimate class sizes.
Another unique factor of Seattle U is the requirement that freshmen and sophomores live on campus; meaning the school also needs a place for those students to live. Aside from freshmen and sophomores, student housing has always been available to junior and seniors as needed. It’s a resource which many came to rely on in vain.
Evan Aubrey is a junior who recalls the madness and frustration of discovering he and others would not have access to student housing this year, in part because more students than ever would be attending classes for 2016-17. “I just wish they would have given us more of a heads up,” Aubrey said.
With less than a term’s warning, hundreds of upperclassmen anticipating available student housing were left to fend for themselves with limited options near campus.
As reported by geekwire in May, Seattle is the 11th fastest growing city in the nation, and now has its second hottest housing market. While Google and Amazon employees can withstand the cost increases, students are not as flexible in their arrangements.
“I live with three other people in a really tiny duplex, that’s the only way that I could make this move work economically,” Aubrey said. “It’s on the edge of the sketchy part of town.”
It’s not like the university hasn’t prepared for the future. Back in December of 2012, the city council approved Seattle University’s 20-year-plan to more than double the size of the campus and add some 2 million square feet of new academic buildings and space.
Just this year, Seattle U unveiled its plans for the newest addition to the college, which will occupy university owned property already at 11th and E. Madison. The ten-story building will be the new home for Student Enrollment Services, as well as provide 8 floors of junior and senior student housing on the north side of campus.
There is every reason to believe that Seattle U will continue to admit record setting class sizes. As the city grows, and as the school continues to expand its reach and draw, the university must adjust in order to meet the expectations of students looking for that intimate brand of Jesuit education. If this freshman class, and those from the past are any indication, we had better start building a little faster.
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