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Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024

Middlebury returns to typical enrollment this spring, with plans to sell Inn on the Green in 2025

The Chateau is a popular housing option open to juniors and seniors.
The Chateau is a popular housing option open to juniors and seniors.

Middlebury has returned to a more typical student enrollment number this semester following a surge in the number of students on campus in the fall and overall elevated enrollment since fall 2021. This decrease in enrollment has taken some of the strain off of on-campus housing, and the college does not anticipate housing students at the Inn on the Green next fall, as it has for the past three fall semesters.  

There are currently 2,546 students enrolled at Middlebury’s Vermont campus, compared to  2,800 this past fall, according to Adela Langrock, director of assessment and institutional research. 

This spring’s enrollment is similar to last spring, when there were approximately 2,550 students on campus. Ideal undergraduate enrollment is between 2,500 and 2,600 students, according to an email Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Michelle McCauley wrote to faculty and staff in April 2023. 

The decrease in enrollment from fall to spring is the result of the larger-than-average class that graduated in February — 233 students compared to the typical 100 — and an increasing number of students who choose to study abroad in the spring semester as opposed to the fall. 

There has been a surge in enrollment not only this past fall, but each fall semester over the past several years. This trend resulted from an increased number of students taking semesters off during the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to a backlog of students still on campus who were meant to have already graduated and a larger proportion of students graduating in February rather than May. The increasing popularity of studying abroad in the spring rather than the fall also exacerbated this pattern of over-enrollment in fall semesters specifically. 

This fall, the college was forced to offer new, unconventional solutions to deal with having more students enrolled than on-campus housing could accommodate, including a stipend to study abroad in the fall instead of the spring, an option for first years to spend their first semester in Copenhagen, a $10,000 stipend to take a leave of absence during the fall semester and student housing at the Inn. 

David Provost, executive vice president of finance and administration, spoke with The Campus about Middlebury’s overall approach to managing enrollment. He noted Middlebury’s accommodating approach to letting students pause their studies during the pandemic, which allowed students to take a semester or year off and then return without additional steps or consequences.

“There is no plan to grow enrollment and we are committed to returning to pre-COVID enrollment numbers,” Michelle McCauley, interim executive vice president and provost, wrote in an email to The Campus.

The college anticipates enrollment higher than the 2,600 target next fall, but foresees a less extreme over-enrollment than the roughly 2,800 students on campus in the fall of 2023. Provost estimated that enrollment next fall will be about 30 to 50 students lower than it was this past fall, and predicted that the Inn on the Green will not be needed for student housing.

“We’re not planning on using [the Inn] in the fall for housing, but we’re not going to put it on the market for another year to make sure we're through the pandemic bubble of students,” Provost said.

He added that the Inn on the Green is needed by the Town of Middlebury as lodging. The town supported the college purchasing it in 2021 with the expectation that it would be sold again once it was no longer needed for student housing. The college plans to sell the Inn following the 2024–25 academic year.

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The Inn on the Green has been used for student housing since the fall of 2021. The college plans to sell it in 2025.

The college has remained committed to matriculating the same number of first-year students each year, even when admitting fewer new students would have relieved the strain of having larger-than-usual junior and senior classes from the pandemic-related backlog. 

“We didn't want to penalize the [matriculating] classes of ’21, ’22 and ’23, because the other thing we could have done is just taken 100 less students and denied 100 less students access to a Middlebury education,” Provost stated.

Middlebury has maintained a consistent incoming class size of about 620 students matriculating each September, apart from the class of 2025. 

“The Class of 2025 which was larger (~680 students) was an anomaly impacted by the global pandemic after a large group of students who were accepted for fall 2020 took a gap year and delayed their start,” wrote Nicole Curvin, dean of admissions, in an email to The Campus.

This larger class of 2025, along with already enrolled students who took time off during the pandemic returning to Middlebury, led to higher enrollment overall during the fall 2021 semester. At the time, The Campus reported that there were over 2,800 students enrolled.

The fall 2021 semester was unique in that a number of juniors were placed in satellite housing at Breadloaf and the Marriott. The college also used the Inn on the Green as student housing for the first time that fall after purchasing it in August 2021. 

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The trend of high enrollment during fall semesters continued the following year with 2,790 students on campus in the fall of 2022. Students were once again housed at the Inn on the Green and the over-enrollment caused additional challenges on campus, including over-enrolled classes and limited parking availability.

With higher enrollment, Dining Services is also responsible for feeding more students than usual, and the lunch rush is magnified. Provost described the lunch rush as the greater stressor on dining services, but said that also has more of a connection to the schedule. 

Greater challenges for students to register for classes they wanted and needed was another significant consequence of higher enrollment over the past few  fall semesters. 

“Students got into a lot more of their top choice courses this spring because there was 200 less students on campus,” Provost said.

The college is trying to prevent a repeat of the issues that arose as a result of higher enrollment in the fall 2023 semester by asking students earlier this spring about their plans for the fall 2024 semester.

“We’re trying to put earlier notification of students’ intention for the fall,” Provost said. “Right now… if you don’t register for classes, you’re still in the pipeline. So the Enrollment Committee is trying to get better at that.”

The $10,000 incentive to take a leave of absence this past fall became necessary late in the summer because the administration did not know exactly how many students planned to be on campus until then, and needed a solution to high enrollment when they realized the actual numbers, according to The Campus’ prior reporting. 

Forty two students ultimately took the fall off in exchange for the stipend, causing a financial cost of $420,000 in total to provide those students with their stipends, according to Provost.

In addition, with more typical enrollment numbers this semester, fewer students are living off-campus, according to AJ Place, associate dean for student life. 

“The number of students living off campus this semester is the lowest it’s been in a number of years, which is a welcome change,” Place wrote. 

In the past few years, an increase in students living off campus has contributed to conflict with the town. With a less extreme level of over-enrollment expected for next fall, Place anticipates being able to house all students on campus again.

"The current projection for the fall is around 2,750, which we are able to accommodate," Place wrote.

Susanna Schatz

Susanna Schatz ‘24 (she/her) is the Senior News Editor. 

She previously served as Local Editor, Staff Writer, and Visuals Artist for The Campus. She is an English major and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies minor.   

Susanna is the social media and marketing intern for a small business started by Midd Alums, Treeline Terrains. In her free time you’ll find her taking in the Vermont outdoors hiking, swimming, skiing, reading in an Adirondack chair, or painting the scenery.