- Associated Press - Monday, August 21, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Dartmouth College is considering increasing its number of undergraduate students by as much as 25 percent in a bid to expand its reach.

The college has formed a task force that will soon begin examining the issue and look at several scenarios for increasing enrollment by 10 percent to 25 percent. President Phil Hanlon has said that a larger student body means more graduates, which would “amplify our impact on the world.”

The college, based in Hanover, has been careful to say that no decision has been made and that the goal of the task force is to explore the costs and benefits of expansion including how those students would be accommodated and what the influx would mean to the quality of its education.

“The overall question is what are the pros and cons of potential enrollment growth, and specifically the task force has been asked to develop a hypothetical implementation plan with the idea that we would be studying the implications and impact on the educational experience here if we pursued growth in the student bod,” said professor Rebecca Biron, who’s a task force co-chair and dean of the college, its senior officer responsible for undergraduate academic life.

Biron said on Friday that the plan would aim to show how any enrollment increase would be revenue neutral and improve the quality of undergraduate education and possibly save the college money in certain areas. As part of developing that plan, the college plans to get feedback from faculty members, students, alumni and local businesses.

A preliminary plan is expected by October, a final proposal by March.

Supporters of a larger student body have said it would allow Dartmouth to extend its influence, offer greater flexibility for incoming classes and give a boost to local businesses that depend on students. Detractors have expressed concerns that increasing the numbers would dilute the quality of education.

Dartmouth has the smallest undergraduate class in the Ivy League at 4,310 students. If it were to increase enrollment, it would join at least half the eight Ivy League schools that have done so in the past 15 years. Citing Department of Education figures, Dartmouth said that these schools have seen double-digit increases while its enrollment has gone up by only 4 percent in that time.

Yale University, for example, announced plans to increase its study body by 200 students a year for the next four years, bringing the undergraduate enrollment from 5,400 to 6,200.

Last year, the Princeton Board of Trustees adopted a strategic framework that calls for increasing undergraduates from 5,200 to 5,700 over four years. The move comes when the university is turning down more students than at any time in its history.

“Each year we turn down students who have the talent and character needed to reap the full benefit of a Princeton education, who would add to the diversity and luster of our student body, and whose Princeton education would enable them to contribute significantly to the world after their graduation,” the trustees wrote in the strategic framework report.

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