Surge or Squeeze?

As the semester is in full swing, we feel the pressure… of people everywhere in campus. Long lines, congested streets, and massive stampede of students every hour during the daytime are common and we all try to adapt. On top of that, constructions and traffic disruptions are ongoing in many spots in campus adding more misery to the pedestrians. Quiet walk for refreshment and meditation is a scene from a bygone era in our campus, at least during the semester. Is it something new? Is the campus more crowded with more students? What is going on? One may wonder.

Some people may blame the increase of student population, while others blame ubiquitous constructions in campus. Both sound reasonable, so I decided to check the numbers.

Following is the undergraduate and graduate students populations data during the last eleven academic years, according to the Office of Institutional Reports, Research, and Information Systems of the University of Texas at Austin (Statistical Handbook, Common Data Set):

Academic Year / Undergraduate / Graduate / Total

2005-06                   36,878                         12,818            49,696

2006-07                   37,037                         12,660            49,697

2007-08                   37,459                         12,711             50,170

2008-09                   37,389                        12,595             49,984

2009-10                    38,168                        12,827             50,995

2010-11                     38,420                        12,775             51,195

2011-12                     38,437                         12,675             51,112

2012-13                     39,955                         12,231             52,186

2013-14                    39,979                          12,080            52,059

2014-15                    39,523                          11,790             51,313

2015-16                    39,619                           11,331             50,950


During this period, obvious trends are a steady increase of undergraduate population and an opposite trend of graduate population, which interestingly have maintained the similar total number (although the magnitude of undergraduate population increase is larger than the decrease of graduate population). So, more or less 51K students roam over the campus these days, which is a LOT by the way.

Back to the earlier question whether the perception of more crowd is due to the increase in the number of students or due to more restriction of passages, I suppose the squeeze (of people through more restricted paths) is a more likely reason than the surge (of student population) during the last few year. I do not think I am sensitive enough to tell the variations of one thousand or so out of 51K at any time. But there is a caveat for this reasoning. Graduate students are less likely spill over to the campus streets altogether at any time of the day, while undergraduates tend to flood and ebb, so the effect from decrease of graduate student population may not be so apparent while that of increase of undergraduate population may be more conspicuous.




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