In the first year of non-selective admission to the Wilson School’s undergraduate concentration, 162 sophomores had declared the School’s program as their major as of Wednesday afternoon. This makes the program, which is undergoing significant changes in its curriculum this year, the largest major for the Class of 2015.
All sophomores pursuing a Bachelor of Arts were required to declare their concentrations by Tuesday. The Wilson School, which ended its selective admission process last year, and the politics department were the concentrations that showed the largest changes from last year’s enrollment.
During the school’s final years of selective admission, the Wilson School admitted around 90 undergraduates annually. This year’s enrollment shows an increase of 70 concentrators.
Enrollment in the politics department experienced a significant decrease in comparison to last year, falling from 115 concentrators in the Class of 2014 down to 62 new concentrators in the Class of 2015.
Politics and Wilson School professor Nolan McCarty, who chairs the politics department, said the leading factor for the decrease in the number of politics concentrators was the Wilson School’s new open-enrollment policy.
“Oh, I suspect that it’s that the Woodrow Wilson School has 70 more than they had the previous year,” McCarty said when asked the reason for the reduction in politics concentrators.
McCarty explained that he expects the numbers of concentrators between the politics department and the Wilson School to fluctuate for some time until students get a better understanding of the different opportunities offered by the two departments.
“I think there’s a lot of uncertainty right now among students about what the new Wilson School curriculum will look like relative to the politics curriculum,” McCarty said.
McCarty, who chaired the Wilson School undergraduate curriculum reform committee from the academic year 2010-11, said that as he analyzed what types of classes Wilson School majors were taking, he found that the students’ course loads largely resembled those of politics majors.
“[Wilson School] students were primarily politics majors in terms of the types of courses they took and the types of theses they wrote,” McCarty said. “They were doing basically exactly what the politics majors were doing.”
Before the reforms in the Wilson School curriculum, many students viewed the department as the more prestigious version of the politics major, according to McCarty. Because students still believe this is the case, more sophomores chose to major in the Wilson School this year with an admissions cap absent, McCarty said.
Wilson School professor Stanley Katz also said that speculations of waning interest in the Wilson School after it went non-selective were “wrong.”
“I think this should surprise no one,” Katz said. “It was exactly what I and a number of others predicted. You’d have to guess that the first year after we removed the selection process, you’d get the same number of applicants that we traditionally get. And they normally run from about 150 to 180. So that’s pretty much what we got.”
Katz explained that the drastic increase in the number of sophomore concentrators will affect the Wilson School’s capacity to provide classes and resources at the same competence as in previous years.
“We will need more or less twice the number of junior seminars, and we don’t have twice the number of faculty members,” Katz said. “So we have to find a way of dealing with that problem.”
Katz said that he preferred the Wilson School’s selective admission process because it was more feasible to manage fewer students and it also meant the level of talent among the accepted students was high.
“I was in favor of selectivity because I think it did two things: It gave us a manageable number of students — although 90 was a lot, by the way. It was difficult to manage 90 students — but it was a much more manageable number of students on the one hand, and I think on the whole, we thought that being selective meant that we got a better group of students,” he said.
The quality of students’ work in the department is “likely to suffer” as a result of a broader range of students joining the Wilson School this year, according to Katz.
McCarty said that numbers between the two departments are expected to fluctuate in the next few weeks.
“Now, the new Wilson School has a very different curriculum,” McCarty said. “It’ll take some time for students to figure out whether they can do the same things within the [new] curriculum that they wanted to do originally.”
He explained that the politics department would not make any changes in its own program in the short run until students collectively get a better sense of how the new Wilson School curriculum is different from that of the politics department.
Another department that saw a large change in its enrollment was ecology and evolutionary biology, which fell from a class of 74 concentrators among the Class of 2014 to a class of 42 among the Class of 2015. Enrollments across most other A.B. departments remained relatively consistent with enrollments from last year.
News Editor Patience Haggin contributed reporting.