Farley discusses need of small class sizes

Jared McRae

High school seniors choose a college for a multitude of reasons – athletics, academics or class size.

Jerry Farley, president of Washburn, has a desire to ensure the latter stays small so students will reap the benefits.

For many students, Washburn’s small class sizes are a major attraction. This allows teachers to take a hands-on approach to their teaching. It has come to be a part of Washburn’s reputation. In fact, the classrooms, on average, hold only 25-35 students.

Nine years ago, Washburn enrolled approximately 5,800 students. Today, that figure stands at about 7,200 students. Washburn is taking many steps in order to enourage small classes stay the same while growth occurs.

“Each year our emphasis is on adding faculty in the areas where growth is occurring,” said Farley.

A lot of the money to pay these faculty members comes from student fees, covering around 50 percent. Another 30 percent of the budget is sustained from a local sales tax and the rest, 15 to 18 percent, comes from the state. Even if more students enroll at Washburn, tuition will not decrease because the money goes toward new teachers and to pay for facilities to accommodate the growing number.

Farley said with small classes, students can build better personal relationships with their teachers compared to classes with more than 200 students.

“There is a sense of belonging to a tight knit cohort of people,” said Farley. “It gives you a greater responsibility to not let your colleagues down in the class.”

This is also helping to build students’ confidence because of the expectation to contribute in the class discussions.

“Students have greater success if they belong to something while they are in school,” said Farley.

As a university, Washburn has taken pride in the personal relationship its faculty members build with the students.

“We know if a faculty member can engage someone in the classroom, they are more likely to graduate,” said Farley.