David Hopkins says the college-going population has expanded, requiring a new approach from schools.

‘Best day of the year’ as Wright State freshmen move in

Wright State University welcomed a new class of freshmen to campus Thursday, as students asked the really important questions — where’s the laundry and how do I get cable TV — and parents hoped their students were prepared to live on their own.

Dan Bertsos, director of residence life at WSU, said the first 1,500 families were dropping off freshmen in advance of classes starting Monday. Five hundred student, faculty and staff volunteers helped them find their way to their residence halls.

“This is the best day of the year,” Bertsos said, adding that two-thirds of WSU freshmen live on campus. “It’s like throwing out the first pitch, like the first fall leaves. We know that school’s back in session and we’re ready for a good year.”

Incoming freshmen Brett Ranly and Ian Huelskamp — neighbors from 75 miles north in St. Henry — said they were fairly comfortable with the move. Huelskamp, a nursing major, said he’s fine moving away from home, but worries a little about finding his classes and getting lost on the 18,000-student campus. Ranly said moving with a friend is a bonus.

“I’m always going to have someone from home with me,” said Ranly, who’s weighing his major in the college of business. “I’m just worried about laundry and making my own meals.”

Ponitz High graduate Kyra Ely was moving just a few miles east from Dayton to start her path toward becoming a dentist. Like many students, the biology major’s concerns were less about academics and more about the melting pot of dorm life.

“I think the biggest thing is probably sharing the restroom,” she laughed.

University spokesman Seth Bauguess said enrollment numbers won’t be official for a few weeks, but he expects WSU to be roughly flat this fall.

“Two weeks ago, it was tracking nearly 2 percent up,” he said. “But it fluctuates. The number I saw as of yesterday was 0.9 percent down … but then we had 80 students at last-chance orientation.”

University President David Hopkins, entering his final year, reflected on changes during his 42 years in higher education.

“We have to welcome more students who don’t come as prepared for college as the top 20 percent did in the 20th century,” Hopkins said. “We welcome people from all backgrounds, all abilities, we meet them where they are academically, financially and experientially, and we work very hard to get them to that finish line.”

Hopkins said the state of Ohio will have “a massive gap in the workforce” in a few years unless more young people get post-high school education and skills, pointing to WSU’s Student Success Center as a way to do that.

Bertsos said on-campus housing numbers are up again this year, with increased demand for WSU’s “learning communities,” where students can live with other students who have the same interests, same academic majors or same career plans.

“Next year we’re going to go from having just floors (organized this way) to whole buildings,” he said.

Stacy Lewis of Eaton was moving her daughter Chloe into WSU on Thursday, and said she tried to prepare her to succeed away from home.

“I feel like I did what I could, but I’m both worried and confident,” Lewis said. “She’s not worried about any classes; it’s just fitting in and everyday life. It’s a different experience, but we’re looking forward to it.”

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