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When Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley to fill Ted Kennedy’s term, people thought that Brown had pulled the upset to end all upsets. This article suggests that it might be that Martha isn’t that good of a candidate:

A new Boston Globe poll released Friday suggests Baker is pulling 45 percent support to Coakley’s 36 percent among likely voters, the widest margin any poll has shown for either candidate since September. A poll released last week had the two neck-to-neck, with 41 percent support each.

“There is just positive movement in every single metric we can ask around Baker,” SocialSphere executive John Della Volpe, who conducted the poll, told the Globe. “The more voters have gotten to know him, the stronger he performs.”

At some point, Massachusetts Democrats will need to tell Ms. Coakley to hit the road. If she loses again, I can’t see how she’d remain politically viable. Either you’ve got it or you don’t. Apparently, Ms. Coakley, a liberal Democrat, can’t win in deep blue Massachusetts.

The Democratic establishment in Massachusetts largely threw its support behind Coakley’s gubernatorial bid. Both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are slated to appear with Coakley this morning in Boston.

I’ll be paying attention to the polling after this event. If Coakley doesn’t rebound after holding rallies with the 2 women most likely to run for the Democratic nomination, then she’s hopeless.

In the governor’s race, Baker has picked up momentum with an across-the-board improvement on questions where voters were asked which candidate would do a better job handling certain broad policy areas. For instance, in mid-September, the poll gave him a 15-point lead over Coakley on creating jobs. In this week’s poll, he is ahead by 24 points.

Voters still think Coakley would do better ensuring high-quality, affordable health care, but the 15-point edge she had in mid-September is now down to 6 points.

“What we’ve seen from mid-September through today is that Baker has either extended his lead or closed a gap in which he was deficient,” Della Volpe said, adding, “Based on that, I’m not surprised that he was able to…create a lead, and some distance for the first time.”

The poll’s volatility can’t be ignored. Then, too, Baker’s lead can’t just be explained away, either.

Among independents, Baker has nearly triple the support that Coakley has, 57 percent to 20 percent. In mid-September, when Coakley had an overall lead of 39 percent to 36 percent, Baker had secured 43 percent of the independent vote, to Coakley’s 24 percent.

Republicans can’t win in Massachusetts if they don’t decisively with independents. Baker is apparently winning independents quite handily.

If she loses, history will record this as Ms. Coakley’s exit from the political stage.

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To the surprise of nobody, the St. Cloud Times in endorsing Joe Perske and Al Franken. What’s surprising is that the Times admits they’re biased:

Central Minnesotans should back Sartell Mayor Joe Perske in the 6th District House race and incumbent Al Franken in the race for U.S. Senate.

Republicans will immediately call “liberal bias” with the endorsement of two Democrats. The truth, though, in both these races is no matter which major-party candidate wins, the victor is going to seldom cross party lines and compromise on major issues.

Before anyone gets their undies in a bunch, it’s clear that the St. Cloud Times thinks they’re fairly impartial. The truth is that they aren’t impartial. Here’s proof:

Voters need to elect the person who can begin to restore district credibility while improving the return district residents get on the tax dollars they send to Washington.

The soft-spoken, blue-collar-leaning Perske is a better choice than Republican Tom Emmer. While Emmer is the likely favorite because of the district’s conservative demographics, voters need to seriously consider whether his political persona will help the district. He’s similarly conservative to Bachmann and he is known as a political bully, which makes his House strategy is “building relationships” a tough sell.

The Times’ logic behind endorsing Joe Perske is that he’s a “blue-collar-leaning” kind of guy and that Tom Emmer’s a “political bully.” That’s stunning in its lack of seriousness. There’s this though:

Voters need to elect the person who can begin to restore district credibility while improving the return district residents get on the tax dollars they send to Washington.

I won’t insist that the Sixth District’s credibility is untattered. That said, the Times Editorial Board’s animosity towards Michele Bachmann is extensive and well documented. Another thing I’ll say is that it isn’t just about “improving the return district residents get on the tax dollars they send to Washington.” It’s about whose policies will strengthen central Minnesota’s economy and Minnesota’s economy.

One of the things Tom Emmer will jump right into is cutting the federal government’s wasteful spending. He’s spoken frequently about his admiration of Sen. Tom Coborn, the man who put together a series of videos on sequestration.

Franken

In not endorsing Al Franken in 2008, this board cited Independence candidate Dean Barkley as being most in touch with local, middle-class voters. Franken objected immediately and vowed to show it. In six years, and in a highly polarized Capitol, he has, and he deserves re-election.

Again, noting neither he nor Republican challenger Mike McFadden will stray far from their respective party’s line, Franken still stood up for Main Street over Wall Street, for a reasonable farm bill, and for better matching people with employers through education.

That’s insulting. The Times didn’t mention the fact that Sen. Franken signed onto letters that oppressed his president’s political opponents while ignoring the Bill of Rights protections of citizens. The Times ignored the fact that Sen. Franken signed onto a letter to the IRS directing the IRS to apply additional scrutiny to TEA Party organizations.

As for Sen. Franken staying in touch with Main Street, he’d pass with flying colors if Main Street was defined as a union hall. If staying in touch with Main Street is defined by holding town halls in profitable businesses, Franken would get a D-.

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Part I of this series highlighted a timeline of events that led to the termination of Todd Hoffner, the head football coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Part II highlighted some of President Davenport’s rationalizations for terminating Coach Hoffner. This post will highlight the substantive complaints from Coach Hoffner’s attorneys. This paragraph is particularly noteworthy:

Second, in that same section, the OLA report devotes an entire paragraph to President Davenport’s justification for his reaction to the charges against Coach Hoffner and, specifically, the description of the Pennsylvania State University sex scandal. No comparable explanation from Coach Hoffner is included, nor is the fundamental distinguishing fact that the alleged conduct that MSU Mankato investigated had nothing to do with sexual abuse or similar conduct with respect to MSU Mankato students.

Comparing the Hoffner situation with what happened at Penn State is foolish. According to a footnote in the OLA’s report, Penn State’s high-level administrators, including Penn State’s president at the time, “were indicted for endangering the welfare of children, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury. They are awaiting trial.” In Coach Hoffner’s case, he didn’t exercise good judgment. Still, the Blue Earth County judge that dismissed the charges said that “the children acted silly, playful and age appropriate.”

There’s a little bit of hyperbole in this paragraph:

To omit from the OLA’s report even the most basic of facts in this regard is misleading and profoundly unfair. The notion that a person could equate Coach Hoffner with Jerry Sandusky is absurd, and that a person could draw such a comparison exemplifies why that person should not have the authority to make life-changing employment decisions affecting others.

First, Hoffner’s attorneys went a little overboard in saying that President Davenport shouldn’t “have the authority to make life-changing employment decisions affecting others.” That being said, Hoffner’s attorneys are right in saying that comparing Coach Hoffner’s actions with Sandusky’s is absurd. They aren’t close to being similar, much less close to being the same thing.

Jerry Sandusky is serving a minimum of 30 years in prison. According to Wikipedia, which I realize isn’t always the most accurate website, “Specifically, Sandusky was convicted of the following charges and counts: eight counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, seven counts of indecent assault, one count of criminal intent to commit indecent assault, nine counts of unlawful contact with minors, 10 counts of corruption of minors and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of children. Cleland immediately revoked Sandusky’s bail and remanded him to the Centre County Correctional Facility to await sentencing.”

It shouldn’t be difficult for university presidents to differentiate between a man who was investigated and had charges dropped and a man convicted of “eight counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, seven counts of indecent assault, one count of criminal intent to commit indecent assault [and] nine counts of unlawful contact with minors…” I’m betting that most high school students could differentiate between the two.

Simply put, this would be a disaster for President Davenport if the MnSCU Chancellor, aka Davenport’s boss, were a principled man or if the DFL-chaired Higher Ed committees took their oversight responsibilities seriously. Since neither is the case, it isn’t likely that this will hurt President Davenport.

That’s the biggest of disasters in this entire situation.

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This post about Richard Davenport’s termination of Coach Todd Hoffner highlights the timeline of Mankato State University, Mankato’s investigation that ultimately led to Coach Hoffner’s termination. This post will highlight the OLA’s report of what happened that triggered the investigation:

On August 10, 2012, Coach Hoffner asked a MSU, Mankato information technology staff person to examine his cell phone because it was not working properly. The staff person found a video recording of naked children on the phone and brought it to the attention of MSU, Mankato officials, who turned the cell phone over to the Mankato police. Coach Hoffner was arrested at his home on August 21, 2012. The following day, the Blue Earth County Attorney filed charges against Todd Hoffner alleging that the images of the children were pornographic and criminal.

After reviewing the images, other evidence, and considering the applicable laws, on November 30, 2012, a Blue Earth County District Court Judge dismissed the criminal charges for lack of “probable cause.” In her order, the judge noted that the children in the video were Todd Hoffner’s children, who asked their father to record a “performance” after they emerged from a bath. The judge went on to say
that the context of the video showed that the “children’s performance was not intended to be erotic or pornographic in nature.” She also noted that the children acted silly, playful, and age appropriate.

Despite the fact that charges were dismissed by a Blue Earth County district court judge, President Davenport proceeded with his investigation.

It’s worth highlighting that the judge ruled that “the children acted silly, playful and age appropriate.”

Here’s another situation that might put President Davenport into a delicate situation:

President Davenport also told us that he responded to the allegations against Coach Hoffner with the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) football sex scandal in mind. In that case, a former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was accused of sexually abusing children for more than a decade. In addition, university officials were accused of failing to respond adequately when concerns about the coach were brought to their attention.

The Penn State situation was dramatically different from what happened in Mankato. Here’s one of the report’s footnotes:

In June 2012, former Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and, in October 2012, he was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) imposed severe sanctions against the Penn State football program, including: a $60 million fine to create an endowment to prevent child sexual abuse and help child abuse victims; barring Penn State’s football program from post-season play for four years; and vacating the team’s wins from 1998-2011. In addition, former Penn State officials, President Graham Spanier, Senior VP for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Tim Curley were indicted for endangering the welfare of children, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. They are awaiting trial.

In the Penn State case, senior members of the administration, including Penn State’s president were accused of lying to investigators and for trying to hide Jerry Sandusky’s actions. Further, they “were indicted “for endangering the welfare of children…”

The underlying allegations included this:

Victims also commonly reported that Sandusky would place his hand on their thighs or inside the waistband of their underpants. Two recounted oral sex with Sandusky, sometimes culminating in his ejaculation.

That’s totally different than the situation at Mankato. First, President Davenport didn’t attempt to cover anything up. Second, he wasn’t accused of lying to investigators. Those things alone differentiate this situation from the Penn State scandal.

I understand that administrators nationwide worried about being accused of covering up a pervert’s lengthy history of child sex abuse. That’s appropriate and justified. What isn’t appropriate or justified is conflating everything into another Penn State.

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If Minnesota State University, Mankato President Richard Davenport is in a tight spot, it’s a spot of his own making. According to the OLA’s report into Todd Hoffner’s termination, we now know that President Davenport notified Coach Hoffner that Davenport had made a “tentative decision” to terminate Coach Hoffner’s employment at MSU, Mankato in a letter dated October 18, 2012. That isn’t the only information we got from the report. Here’s more:

At President Davenport’s direction, MSU, Mankato initiated an investigation of Coach Hoffner before the Blue Earth County District Court process was concluded, and the criminal charges were dismissed.

This information provides a timeline of events:

The investigator provided President Davenport with an initial report on September 7, 2012; addendum I on September 19, 2012; and addendum II on November 1, 2012.

Later in the report, it adds this information:

Based on the results from the MSU, Mankato internal investigation, President Davenport notified Coach Hoffner in a letter dated October 18, 2012, that President Davenport had made a “tentative decision” to terminate Coach Hoffner’s employment at MSU, Mankato. On November 30, 2012, a Blue Earth District Court Judge dismissed the criminal charges against Coach Hoffner.

If you put these dates together, President Davenport was given the initial report on Sept. 7, 2012 and the initial addendum on Sept. 19, 2012. After receiving those parts of the report, President Davenport waited until Oct. 18, 2012 to notify Coach Hoffner that President Davenport had made a tentative decision to fire Coach Hoffner. Further, a Blue Earth district court judge dismissed the criminal charges against Coach Hoffner.

Finally, we learned this:

In a letter dated May 6, 2013, President Davenport notified Todd Hoffner that his employment at MSU, Mankato would terminate at the end of the day.

That means President Davenport didn’t officially terminate Coach Hoffner’s employment until 6 months after he first notified Hoffner that he’d tentatively decided his fate.

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Elizabeth Warren’s populism just took a hit:

Given her populist image, it would be more in character for Warren to fight such a narrow industry interest. In this case, she did not. When Fidelity’s top executive, Abigail P. Johnson, personally lobbied the SEC in 2012, Warren stayed out of the fight. At the time, Warren was running for Senate against incumbent Republican Scott Brown, whose biggest source of funding came from Fidelity employees, according to a news report by the Globe’s Beth Healy.

Given Sen. Warren’s constant rants that “the game is rigged” and that Republicans rigged it, it’s astonishing that Warren is getting hit with this news. Perhaps that’s why Warren has declined running for president thus far.

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In September, Mark Dayton insisted that PreferredOne’s leaving MNsure was competition in action:

Gov. Mark Dayton says a key provider’s decision to drop out of the state-run health exchange is competition in action.

The Star Tribune is reporting it’s nothing of the sort:

Sometime after the insurer PreferredOne submitted its proposed rates for the first year of the MNsure exchange, state regulators asked the company to consider lowering the numbers. Ultimately, the insurer responded with “a total rate decrease of 37 percent,” according to a July 2013 letter from an outside actuary to the company. Those final rates were the lowest in the Twin Cities, and across the country, in many cases, and helped Preferred­One to grab nearly 60 percent of the MNsure business.

Now, those subscribers face an average premium increase of 63 percent if they stay with PreferredOne, a yo-yo scenario that health policy experts say points to the challenge in setting prices under the federal health law. The big swing also suggests that the low prices were out of step with the reality of the business.

Dayton’s dishonest numbers, combined with his disdain for competition, have caused Minnesota insurance prices to skyrocket. Dayton’s dishonest health insurance numbers were always dishonest. Now it’s verifiable.

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Leaders Lead!
by Silence Dogood

According to an article published on NBCnews.com on October 19, 2014,

http://www.universitybusiness.com/news/university-president-takes-90k-pay-cut-gives-money-staff

Dr. Raymond Burse, the President at Kentucky State University in Frankfort is taking a $90,000 pay cut “so the lowest-paid workers on his campus can get a wage boost.” Essentially, 24 employees will get a pay raise from $7.25 to $10.25 per hour.

Dr. Anne Blackhurst, the new President at Minnesota State University—Moorhead during homecoming week celebrations two weeks ago led a fundraising effort by running 12.5 miles (50 laps around the track) and personally donated $1,000 per lap out of her own salary towards the effort for a total donation of $50,000. Her fundraising efforts raised a total of $1,200,000, which is the largest fundraising effort in MSUM’s history!

What has President Earl Potter done?

At SCSU, President Potter is once again heading to China for several weeks. This, despite the fact, the university is facing a $9,500,000 shortfall in this year’s budget, enrollment is down over 5% for the fourth year in a row, Coborn’s Plaza is hemorrhaging money costing SCSU $6,400,000 in the first four years of operation and an incredibly low approval rating of President Potter and his administration as evidenced by the results of the Great Place to Work Survey.

Winona State University’s Faculty Senate on Monday unanimously voted “no confidence” in MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone.

http://blogs.mprnews.org/oncampus/2014/10/winona-st-profs-no-confidence-vote-in-mnscu-chief/

According to the article the reason for the vote by the Winona Faculty Senate was

“a recurring pattern of secrecy in MnSCU decision making regarding the hiring of private consultants, questionable spending decisions by the System Office, and an unwillingness to incorporate greater student and faculty input into long term planning.”

Let’s look to see if these same issues occur at SCSU.

Anyone familiar with SCSU knows that has become easier to hire a consultant than hire a part-time faculty member. While some consultants may be performing worthwhile functions, the sheer number of consultants that have been hired the last few years is simply stunning—and those are only the consultants we know about! Consultant contracts range on the low end from a few thousand dollars to nearly half a million dollars.

SCSU also seems to have several questionable spending decisions of its own—most notably the contract with the Wedum Foundation for the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments, which has taken $6,400,000 from the university’s budget in the first four years of operation. On top of that, spending $720,000 on a three-year contract for additional police officers in the community surrounding the SCSU campus, $450,000 for the Confucius Institute and $459,000 on a ‘Rebranding’ campaign. This is only a partial list of major expenses!

Lastly, the lack of input and consideration of a wide array of opinions prior to making major decisions is the norm at SCSU. Most decisions are simply announced after the fact. Multiple administration positions have been filled without searches or consultation with the faculty. Some of these positions have been filled this way for several years. Even when the faculty requested inclusion in the process for removing grades from student’s transcripts, the President denied the request. So much for being ‘open and transparent.’

Perhaps the wrong senate took a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the wrong person.

The Winona State University (WSU) vote was taken by the 28 faculty members who comprise their Faculty Senate, which is the governing body for the faculty at WSU. The Great Place to Work Survey conducted at SCSU with 634 of 1,582 of those invited responding was clearly not a vote of confidence in President Potter and his administration. However, with such abysmal results for the senior leadership, it certainly could be viewed as a vote of no confidence in President Potter and his administration.

President Potter, with the support of Chancellor Rosenstone, simply refuses to see his part in the decline of what was once bragged to be the ‘flagship’ university in the MnSCU system. It truly is a shame because without leadership that is supported by the faculty and staff, things simply aren’t going to change for the better.

When the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho passed a non-discrimination ordinance, they opened up a nasty First Amendment can of worms:

Two Christian ministers who own an Idaho wedding chapel were told they had to either perform same-sex weddings or face jail time and up to a $1,000 fine, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court. Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers who own the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene.

“Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted,” their ADF attorney, Jeremy Tedesco, told me. “The threat of enforcement is more than just credible.”

According to the lawsuit, the wedding chapel is registered with the state as a “religious corporation” limited to performing “one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.” But the chapel is also registered as a for-profit business, not as a church or place of worship, and city officials said that means the owners must comply with a local nondiscrimination ordinance.

It’s difficult seeing this ordinance passing constitutional scrutiny by a real court. It was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The next step will be to the Supreme Court. The First Amendment doesn’t just protect citizens, as we learned in this summer’s Hobby Lobby ruling.

I suspect that this is just another attempt to strike down that ruling.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told me it’s “open season on Americans who refuse to bow to the government’s redefinition of marriage. Americans are witnesses to the reality that redefining marriage is less about the marriage altar and more about fundamentally altering the freedoms of the other 98 percent of Americans,” Perkins said.

Governments, whether they’re local governments or the federal government, don’t have the authority to tell religious institutions what they must do. That’s what Coeur d’Alene is attempting to do. Their city attorney, Warren Wilson, apparently isn’t that schooled in constitutional law.

Thankfully, the Knapps are standing their ground, with assistance from the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council. It’s important that government not have the authority to tell people how they can practice their faith. That’s a major reason why people left Europe. It’s important that we fight against being returned to European-style governance.

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More on Projections
by Silence Dogood

On April 14, 2014, the seven MnSCU universities were required to project their final FY14 FYE enrollments and FY15 FYE enrollments. At that point in the semester, with only four weeks left in the semester, the registration numbers for FY14 should be pretty firm. The table reproduced below came from SCSU’s Office of Finance and Administration’s website:

A graphic representing the difference between the “Projected FY 2014″ and the final actual FY2014 FYE enrollments (taken from MnSCU data) is shown below:

Clearly, some universities did a better job of projecting final enrollments than others. Moorhead’s, SCSU’s and Winona’s projections were significantly different than the eventual final enrollment. Remember, these are projections of the final enrollment only four weeks from the end of the semester. In the case of Moorhead, they underestimated their FY14 enrollment so at least the surprise was a good one. In the case of SCSU and Winona, the actual enrollments were significantly below their projections. Most financial people don’t like ‘surprises’ especially if they are bad ones! For SCSU, the decline of 62 FYE only represents an error of 0.5% so it might seem like ‘making a mountain out of a mole hill.’ However, clearly from the data, four universities did a better job than SCSU. Additionally, assuming that 1 FYE produces a total of $11,500 (tuition and state appropriation), 62 FYE accounts for a total of $713,000. That mole hill is beginning to look like more of a mountain!

Switching to the FY15 Projections. The data in the table also shows each university’s percent change in their enrollment from their estimated FY14 FYE enrollment as compared to their estimated FY15 FYE enrollment.

A positive value (shown in blue) indicates that a university is expecting an increase in enrollment from FY14 to FY15. A negative value (shown in red) indicates that the enrollment is expected to go down. For some universities, there is a lot of ‘red’ in the figure.

Winona was the only MnSCU university to project an increase in enrollment for FY15. Metro projected that their enrollment would remain constant in FY15. Both Bemidji and Mankato projected slight declines of 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively. Southwest projected a slightly larger decline at 1.2%. Both Moorhead and SCSU projected declines greater than 3%, which by any measure is a significant decline in enrollment.

Last year, Moorhead went through retrenchment and layoffs and reduced its faculty and staff by 10% as a result of a three-year decline in enrollment of 11.4%. As a result, you might expect to see an enrollment decline simply resulting from fewer course offerings because of having fewer faculty.

SCSU is the clear leader in projecting an enrollment decline at 3.5%. Following declines of 5.9%, 5.4% and 5.1% during the last three years, an enrollment decline of only 3.5% would be a significant improvement.

For a number of years Tom Fauchald, a Bemidji State University faculty member, has provided information about enrollments within the MnSCU system. In his latest report, he compares the FYE fall enrollments for all of the MnSCU colleges and universities. The data he presented was based on enrollment as of September 13, 2014 and was compared to the enrollment on the same date the prior year. The percent change for Fall semester at each of the MnSCU universities is shown in the following figure:

Clearly, the data shows enrollment at all of the MnSCU universities is down compared to the prior year on the same date.

A more interesting comparison might be how the enrollments compared with each of the university’s predictions. The following figure shows the difference between the projected percent enrollment (for FY15) and the percent FYE enrollment decline on September 14, 2014 (year-to-date comparison):

The red in the Figure shows that the enrollments at all of the MnSCU universities are lower than their projections. More red in the figure, the larger the decrease from a university’s projected enrollment. It is important to note that the enrollment projection made by the university was for the entire year and the enrollment data is only year-to-date enrollment data for fall semester (summer was not included and spring has yet to occur). As a result, these numbers may change. Concurrent enrollment is only significant at Southwest, SCSU and Mankato so they may see a small improvement in the enrollment numbers. However, it is not likely that the numbers will change substantially as the last of the concurrent enrollment is registered and spring semester is added.

Bemidji and Mankato seemed to do the best job at predicting their enrollments with errors of 1.0% and 0.5%, respectively. The remaining five universities all varied in their underestimation of their enrollment decline between 1.7% and 2.7%. Since SCSU is the largest of these universities, SCSU’s actual FYE decrease is much larger than any one else.

If Mankato is SCSU’s main rival, it is clear that there is a significant difference in almost every measure of recent performance. It also appears that the difference is increasing. And SCSU is not on the ‘right’ side of the changes!