Hastings College sees influx of new students

Local4 News at 5
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 10:23 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The City of Hastings might not be viewed as a college town, but an increase in enrollment could change that perception. This year, Hastings College is experiencing it’s largest incoming class in 10 years.

There are over 400 new students on campus, which is almost half of this year’s student population. Vice President of Student Access and Enrollment, Annette Vargas said they’re excited to welcome the huge influx, and they intentional try to keep class size small.

She said teacher-student ratio is 13 to one, and that seems to be one thing that attracts students. Saying, having new students opens doors in the future because they bring more ideas, energy, and leaders of tomorrow.

The great thing about first year students is they chose Hastings College; and for most, choosing a college is their first adult decision. Vargas contributes the influx to embracing who they are.

“For the last few years try to talk about what Hastings does well and we do a really great job of being intentionally small, deliberate mentorship, working one on one with students,” Vargas said. “You get to work with a direct facility member here, not necessarily a teaching assistant. So students get more opportunity and access.”

Vargas said the school is doubling down on what they do well and it’s interesting seeing what a student becomes during their academic career. She said class size doesn’t exceed 25 students, which means instructors will know when you’re missing from class.

She said Hastings College is special because you can be anything you want and explore everything the city has to offer. But their biggest challenge has been housing.

“We are full to the brim in housing, and the housing crunch in Hastings community doesn’t help,” Vargas said. “We have a three year residency policy. But what we use to have seniors move off campus, we’re seeing that less and less because of the lack of affordable housing in Hastings for our seniors so more students are wanting to stay on campus.”

Vargas said it’s great that students want to live on campus, but those with roommate issues may have put with stinky feet a little longer than usual. To offset the housing issue, Hastings College is involving students in conflict resolution exercises because there’s simply no easy escape from this housing issue. But the second reason many have came to Hastings College is block scheduling.

“The reason why we did that is because we started noticing that students were having a really hard time remembering like Thursday to Tuesday classes, like I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night but I need my students to remember what we did on Thursday, it was becoming more difficult,” Vargas said. “So we started doing classes everyday in this block model and the students grades are better and they’re enjoying the classes more.”

This is the school’s fifth year of block scheduling and easing the workload has helped students maintain focus to produce at a higher level. Vargas said last year, block scheduling reduced failing grades by 17%, and GPAs are up 4.9%.

“I think it’s good that we have like, for the harder classes we have longer times to like get that work done and you know get more one-on-one time with the teacher and then for those two weeks that we have our classes that we more enjoy doing than we have to do and I think that’s just going to help a lot so I can have my time to grind for the work I have to do and then have the classes that I enjoy doing for my two weeks,” said Quinten Gardner, Freshman at Hastings College.

Fellow freshman, Evan Gomez said block scheduling allows you to have a personal relationship with your teacher. Emma Foland said block scheduling is similar to the quarter system she had in high school, making the transition easier.