Yale to shift resources to intro classes, hire post-docs for some upper-level seminars as student body grows
With Yale set to welcome larger-than-usual classes of sophomores and first years the next academic year, professors and the Yale administration are taking steps to ensure that class sizes remain similar to pre-pandemic levels.
In preparation for the growth in first years and sophomores on campus, Yale faculty is planning to shift resources to accommodate for larger demand for first year and sophomore classes. Tamar Gendler, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, told the News that the University is planning to add resources and staff to typically sought after first-year courses such as English 114 and 120, introductory math and introductory language courses.
The University will also hire a small number of carefully selected recent graduates from its Ph.D programs to teach specialized upper-level seminars typically taken by juniors and seniors, freeing up more full-time professors to teach sophomore classes.
“The main thing for students to know and understand is we are putting additional resources in place and we are profoundly committed to making sure the undergraduate experience next year, even in the face of additional students, feels exactly as lively and engaged as it has in years where we have our standard enrollment levels,” Gendler said.
Gendler also noted that, for the coming year, Yale is hiring additional instructors and adding additional sections “in anticipation of additional student arrivals.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has left the class of 2024 larger than expected as some members of the class of 2023 — who were barred from returning to campus for the fall semester — took leaves of absence for one semester or the whole year. The class of 2024 now contains 1,759 students, according to Yale registrar data current as of Feb. 1 — a significant increase from the approximately 1,550 students who typically matriculate in a given class.
In September, the News reported that 341 students admitted to the class of 2024 had chosen to take gap years, therefore becoming members of the class of 2025. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan told the News that the admissions office is committed to admitting a typical number of students to the class of 2025, which tends to yield 1,550 matriculants. When the students who took leaves of absence are added, the class of 2025 is expected to contain around 1,900 students.
According to Gendler, the University therefore expects that the Yale student body in fall 2021 will be seven to eight percent larger than in a typical year.
“As always, the admissions office is eager to respond to as many impressive students from the widest collection of backgrounds as possible,” Quinlan wrote in an email to the News. “I am delighted and relieved that the admissions office will not need to reduce the number of admissions offers we extend to graduating high school seniors as a result of the pandemic.”
Yale’s student population will remain at this increased size for the next few years. Matthew Jacobson, professor of American studies and history and chair of the FAS Senate, told the News that this enrollment bulge is “a matter of tremendous concern” for faculty. But Gendler said that the University is keeping close track of typical class enrollment patterns to ensure that resources are adequately allocated to account for the increase in students.
This is not the first time that Yale has had to adjust class sizes due to the pandemic. The News reported in December that Yale used most of the funding for professional school TFs on coronavirus-related needs this year. As a result, fewer TFs could be sourced from the University’s professional schools, forcing some classes to reduce enrollment due to limited staffing.
Shiri Goren, director of the Modern Hebrew Program in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, told the News that, to her, the Yale administration seems to be able to accurately predict enrollment patterns and should therefore be able to plan ahead for any problems that might arise from the larger student body. Goren added that new pre-registration systems in place should allow departments to resolve any last-minute issues with class sizes.
“The pandemic and other serious problems the country is currently facing make any long-term planning quite challenging and even with that my sense is that both Yale College and the FAS Dean’s Office are doing a good job in planning and preparing under such complicated circumstances,” Goren wrote in an email to the News.
Stefanie Markovits, the Director of Undergraduate Studies for English, described in an email to the News the measures that the English Department is taking to accommodate the influx of students. Namely, there will be “more intro level courses than ever before” and a return to pre-pandemic caps on seminars, which are higher than the current caps in place, so that more students can enroll in each class, Markovits said.
And in Political Science, David Simon, the DUS of the Department, noted that the major has a seminar requirement, so additional faculty to accommodate for the expected increase in demand, is necessary.
“We know that there will likely be a bump in enrollment, but mostly at the first-year level for now,” Simon wrote in an email to the News. “In the coming years, the[re] will be a high demand for faculty advising, especially for senior essays. In addition, we’ll need to be able to make sure we can offer enough sections to accommodate demand in our larger lecture classes.”
In order to accommodate all of these needs, Gendler described “terrific longitudinal data” that allows Yale to accurately model enrollment patterns for each class, particularly emphasizing the first- and second-year classes, which will be the largest.
To allow members of those classes to interact with senior faculty, she said that recent Ph.D students, instead of teaching first- and second-year courses, will in many cases be teaching upper-level seminars, allowing ladder faculty who would normally teach those courses to instead teach at the more introductory level.
The University is also hiring instructors in areas that Yale expects to see increased enrollment.
“We’ve given additional resources to each of those [popular first-year classes] … to hire expert instructors now, so that we have a chance to get the people who are most qualified to do that teaching, and we will add proportionate to what typical enrollments have been with a little bit of buffer, additional teachers for each of those introductory-level courses,” Gendler said.
This semester the most popular course at Yale was S&DS 230, “Data Exploration and Analysis.”
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Clarification, Mar. 1 12:04 a.m.: The original title of this story was “Yale to shift resources to intro classes, hire post-docs for upper-level seminars as student body grows.” This headline was misleading as not all upper-level seminars will be taught by post-docs. In fact, Gendler says that less than five percent of those seminars will be taught by post-docs. The headline has been updated. This headline was written during the editorial process.