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Dave Unze’s article about SCSU’s looming budget cuts raises a few questions with me, starting with this information:

St. Cloud State University is facing a budget deficit of as much as $10 million after another year of declining enrollment.

St. Cloud State President Earl H. Potter III announced Thursday that the university will implement a “flexible hiring freeze” as part of its response to the deficit. The university is working on a two- to three-year plan to close that budget gap that could include using reserve dollars and holding back 5 percent of all non-personnel budgets.

The university’s enrollment decline could be as much as 5 percent when fall enrollment numbers are released after the 30th day of classes. All but one institution in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is anticipating enrollment declines.

This summer, (June 23 to be precise) SCSU announced that they’d need to cut their operating budget by $3,600,000. That’s based on FYE (Full Year Equivalents) enrollment being down 3.2% from last year’s enrollment.

The reason why people use FYE enrollment for creating budgets is because it gives them a reliable tuition revenue figure to work with. Head count enrollment tells people how many students are enrolled at a university but it doesn’t tell people if they’re mostly full-time students, mostly part-time students or a 50-50 mix. An FYE ‘student’ is based on that ‘student’ taking a full load of classes that year.

If SCSU had to cut $3,600,000 when FYE enrollment is down 3.2%, shouldn’t they need to cut $5,400,000 if FYE enrollment is down 4.8%? It doesn’t make sense to cut the operating budget by $10,000,000 if SCSU’s FYE enrollment is down 4.8%-5%. The only thing that makes sense is if SCSU anticipates FYE enrollment being down more than 5%.

I question this information:

Budget cuts alone will not get the university out of the deficit, he said. Future fiscal health is tied closely to enrollment growth through strategic academic program development, he said, as well as student retention.

It isn’t that I think significant enrollment growth won’t contribute to SCSU’s financial health. It’s that some of President Potter’s spending decisions have significantly hurt SCSU’s financial health, starting with the contract he signed with the J.A. Wedum Foundation. SCSU has lost $6,400,000 on that initiative alone. They’ve spent $150,000 a year on the Confucius Institute and another $240,000 on police officers that the City of St. Cloud should pay for or do without.

Insiders at SCSU could probably identify other spending that should be trimmed besides the thing I’ve listed. It wouldn’t hurt taxpayers’ feelings if SCSU did a better job of spending money wisely.

These budget cuts are a big thing. They’re the result of foolish spending decisions and a 4-year (and counting) enrollment decline. President Potter can’t dismiss the enrollment decline as SCSU right-sizing. It’s the result of SCSU not putting out a high quality product in students’ and parents’ eyes.

This is a real crisis. Let’s hope President Potter rises to the challenge. If he doesn’t, well…

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This afternoon at 1:38 pm, SCSU President Earl Potter sent this email to “FacultyStaffAll”:

From: President’s Office
Sent: Thursday, August 28, 2014 1:38 PM
To: FacultyStaffAll
Subject: University budget update

August 28, 2014

To the campus community,

As we’ve all gathered for the initial events of the new academic year, I hope you have been as inspired as I have been to hear the stories of our new and returning students who seek to advance their educations with St. Cloud State. Their stories about why they chose St. Cloud State or their outstanding summer internships make my day and I hope yours. We continue to be diligent in advancing our mission and vision!

Mixed with the enthusiasm over the start of school has been the serious work of analyzing our financial challenges, work that has been ongoing throughout the spring and summer. Over the summer, the size of the financial gap we have briefly discussed at convocation and elsewhere has become much clearer. Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy McGee has shared with employee bargaining units and other constituent groups that there is a shortfall in our FY ’15 budget estimated between $8-$10 million.

To effectively address the shortfall, we are developing a two-to three-year work out plan in which we will consider all financial strategies available to us as we seek to balance our budget and right our financial situation.

There are several reasons for the shortfall, but the primary driver behind the structural imbalance and financial results is due to the last three years of lower enrollment. In addition, during the same period, the number of faculty and staff on the payroll has remained constant. As I write this, we anticipate a tuition revenue decrease with a projected decline in enrollment of between 4 and 5% this fall.

Thus, today we are announcing the implementation of a flexible hiring freeze as one financial management tool to bring our income and expenditures into alignment. We anticipate that this flexible hiring freeze will last at least through this fiscal year and perhaps beyond. In addition, 5% of all non-personnel budgets will be held back until the spring semester enrollment numbers are known; and use of potential FY ’14 carry-forward balances will be confirmed upon the completion of our fiscal year-end audit scheduled to be done by the end of October.

The flexible hiring freeze will apply to all positions except for those positions that are fully externally funded by contracts and grants. The freeze also does not include student employment or graduate assistantships at this time. We are calling it a “flexible” hiring freeze because we recognize that there are some positions that absolutely must be filled. We will consider the following guiding principles when determining which vacancies may be filled:

How directly does the position impact our core mission?
How does the position contribute to:

  1. Enrollment growth, student persistence and/or student success?
  2. Strategic cultivation of new programs?
  3. Fundraising and revenue generation?
  4. Ensuring compliance with applicable laws, policies, accreditation standards and bargaining agreements?
  5. Ensuring the health and safety of faculty, staff and students?
  6. What is the potential for significant disruption of an essential administrative/support function if the position is not filled?
  7. What alternative solutions have been considered?

More information about the flexible hiring freeze process is available on the Human Resources website at www.stcloudstate.edu/humanresources

I understand that there may be feelings of anxiety and uncertainty over this information. I want to assure you that we will engage you throughout this process seeking input relative to potential cost savings or revenue growth ideas. We will communicate regularly and transparently about steps that we are taking to reduce our expenses while also investing in growth opportunities. It is clear we need to realign our university’s cost structure. All budget management strategies will be exhausted before considering layoffs and retrenchment. We are not considering layoffs or retrenchment at this time.

Together we must work to meet the challenges facing SCSU. We are committed to the following:

  1. Work with bargaining unit leadership to identify different ways of doing our work so that we can meet our commitments to our students, our community and each other, while functioning at a staffing level that is consistent with our funding;
  2. Work with our academic programs on new program development, including certificate and non-degree programs, and fast track development so that we can introduce them into the student marketplace as quickly as possible;
  3. Continue to consult with student leaders about budget issues and ways in which we can minimize the impact on students;
  4. Work with our faculty to develop approaches for rapid new program development that maintains our academic integrity and governance processes but at the same time continues to promote the creativity of our faculty colleagues and provides them space to experiment and be responsive to the dynamic workforce needs of our state and region.

While there is agreement that we need to implement a flexible hiring freeze, it is also clear that we cannot cut our way out of this situation. Our future viability lies in enrollment growth through strategic academic program development. We will aggressively pursue new program opportunities and expansions where strong student and market demand exists and that align with our current academic program strengths. In addition, we will continue to invest in student recruitment and retention strategies to build strategic enrollment growth over time. Student recruitment and student success is everyone’s business. As these growth strategies become clearer and begin to take root, it is imperative that during this time we continue to remain vigilant and exercise fiscal discipline to ensure our forward progress.

On a final note, I have been incredibly encouraged over the last two weeks, as we have shared our financial reality, in how you have responded to this news. So many of you have essentially said, “OK, good to know … time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We can figure this one out.” St. Cloud State University is a strong organization with talented faculty and staff dedicated to providing an incredible education and experiences to our students. It is with that spirit we will work together to determine how we live into the future. Thank you all for your commitment and dedication.

Earl H. Potter
President

This email must’ve surprised the faculty. I wouldn’t be surprised if it surprised the entire campus. I wrote this post in late June about the announced budget cuts at the time. Here’s what I wrote:

St. Cloud State just announced that they’ll have to cut their operating budget by $3,600,000. That’s due in part to their declining enrollment and the glut of empty dorm rooms. According to SCSU’s own budget documents, they’ll be over 1,000 students short of full capacity. In fact, they’re mothballing one dormitory entirely.

In today’s email to the campus, President Potter announced “that there is a shortfall in our FY ’15 budget estimated between $8-$10 million.” It’s important to note that that’s based on “a projected decline in enrollment of between 4 and 5% this fall.”

It’s important to note that the administration’s initial projection for enrollment during the spring semester was for a 3.3% decline. If the enrollment decline is 5%, that means the University’s initial projection was off by 50%. (3.3% X 1.5 = 4.95%)

If the shortfall is $10,000,000, not $3,600,000, then the administration’s initial estimation was off by more than 175%.

This is worth inspecting:

All budget management strategies will be exhausted before considering layoffs and retrenchment. We are not considering layoffs or retrenchment at this time.

St. Cloud State wouldn’t be in this predicament if they hadn’t made some serious financial mistakes, starting with the contract with the Wedum Foundation. SCSU has lost $6,400,000 in the 4 years since the apartments have opened. It’s quite the coincidence that that’s the size of the gap between the initial shortfall projection and the shortfall projection that President Potter announced this afternoon.

Last spring, President Potter told the St. Cloud Times Editorial Board that he considered the contract with the Wedum Foundation as a great success. Based on these numbers, it’s impossible to think that SCSU won’t attempt to renegotiate that contract.

I’ve got to think that the thing that the faculty is most worried about are retrenchments. It’s likely that they’re upset with SCSU’s declining enrollment, too.

Two years ago, then-Provost Devinder Malhotra brushed off SCSU’s enrollment declines as part of the University’s “right-sizing”. Last spring, the St. Cloud Times wrote that SCSU’s enrollment had dropped by 1.3%. Obviously, that 1.3% decline wasn’t calculated in terms of FYE enrollment, which is the type of enrollment that’s used for budgeting.
President Potter tried painting the rosiest picture imaginable last year. This year, he doesn’t have a choice. Enrollment has dropped too far. The revenue shortfalls have lasted too long. Now it’s time to pay the piper.
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Where Did They Get the Data?
by Silence Dogood

On Tuesday, February 11, 2014, Provost Devinder Malhotra presented financial information about SCSU and other MnSCU universities to the Faculty Senate that was supposed to allay fears of the impending financial doom of SCSU as a result of the declining enrollments. SCSU’s FYE enrollment has dropped 17.9% over the past four years (FY10-FY14). Almost anyone involved with higher education knows that enrollment (i.e., tuition) is what drives the university because tuition accounts for as much as 2/3rds or more of the revenue.

Provost Malhotra’s presentation focused on the “Composite Financial Index,” which “offers insights regarding finaNCIAL (sic) STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. The composite is calculated from 4 component measures: return on net assets, operating margin, primary reserve, and viability. The calculation of CFI from these compoents (sic) involves certain “strength factors” and “weighting factors” applied to the 4 components.”

Without a lecture on accounting, just remember that bigger is better! The image shows Provost Malhotra in front of his slide of the FY13 Composite Index for the MnSCU universities.

During his presentation, Provost Malhotra was happy to point out that SCSU was above the MnSCU average and that we were higher than our biggest rival MSU—Mankato. The data from the background of the slide is reproduced in the table below:

Several in the Faculty Senate pointed out that there was at least one serious problem with this analysis: the university on the list with the highest Composite Financial Index was Moorhead at 3.48, which should indicate a strong financial position. However, for those living under a rock and who are not aware, last fall Moorhead announced plans for a 10% reduction in workforce to alleviate their budget crisis as a result of recent drops in enrollment. How can anyone believe that this Composite Financial Index has anything to do with reality in terms of the financial health if the university with the largest number for the CFI is facing a major financial crisis and retrenching 10% of its faculty and staff???

The answer is quite simple. The data shown by Provost Malhotra is possibly just made up. The CFI data for all of MnSCU is shown in the following table (data from the MnSCU website):

This data is current as of August 23, 2014. Also, please note that this is data for FY13, which ended on June 30, 2013. The books on the audits were closed in the fall of 2013 so these are the ‘real numbers’ and not estimates.

Since the numbers may be hard to read, the bottom portion of the chart is enlarged and reproduced in the table below.

Where the numbers presented by the Provost actually came from is anyone’s guess. The following table shows just look at how far they are off from MnSCU’s numbers.

Some of the numbers are only slightly smaller than MnSCU’s numbers but others differ by as much as 40%! How can there be such a difference between MnSCU’s numbers and the numbers presented by Provost Malhotra in February of this year (at least two months after the audits for FY13 had been accepted by the Board of Trustees)?

Another important concern is when will the data for the CFI for FY’14 be available? I think I’d just about bet the house that the CFI for SCSU will be substantially lower for FY’14—enough so that it might be said to reside in the toilet.

If the enrollment is down 6.0% for FY15, the drop in enrollment from FY10 will be 22.8% in five years. Coborn’s Plaza has lost $6,400,000 in the first four years of operations and is slated to lose nearly another $1,000,000 this year. Dorm occupancy is running around 70% on campus and two entire dorms have been mothballed. Budget cuts rumored to be over $8,000,000 are being talked about. Confidence in the administration, as independently measured by the Great Place to Work Survey taken last November, is so low, it is embarrassing. Clearly, there are serious problems at SCSU!

Additionally, with the nearly complete turnover of senior administrators during President Potter’s seven-year tenure (only Dean Burgeson [Dean Center of Continuing Studies] and Wanda Overland [VP Student Life and Development] predate President Potter), the collective “institutional memory” of SCSU beyond ten years is gone.

Will someone finally say “The sky is falling?” Or perhaps more importantly, is anyone listening?

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This article highlights how inefficient MnSCU is. It highlights MnSCU’s secret $2,000,000 contract with McKinsey Consulting. It also highlights the lengths that McKinsey went to to hide what they did for that $2,000,000.

In December, MnSCU sought “change management” proposals from consulting companies. The system received two, which it recently released.

Accenture offered to “make the initial investment” of six weeks of services worth $500,000. Then, the company and MnSCU would agree on payments based in part of results the company delivers over two years, such as securing outside funding for the initiative. The hourly pay for employees was the only redacted part of that proposal.

Accenture, headquartered in Ireland, declined to comment.

In the McKinsey proposal, most of the 133 pages were blacked out as trade secrets, including information about past projects, employee bios and a section that starts, “McKinsey is the best partner for MnSCU because of our …” Experts on the state Government Data Practices Act such as former state information policy director Don Gemberling said “there’s no way” so much of McKinsey’s proposal fits the state’s narrow definition of a trade secret.

Saying that the contrast between Accenture an McKinsey is stark is understatement. Accenture’s proposal wasn’t redacted. McKinsey’s proposal was almost totally redacted.

Because McKinsey insisted on this high level of secrecy, it’s difficult trusting them. McKinsey’s actions suggest that they’re hiding things that taxpayers have a right to know. That isn’t the only thing that’s troublesome about McKinsey’s actions:

But Bonoff, D-Minnetonka, said she came out of her meeting with Rosenstone and Welsh convinced McKinsey provided worthwhile support — and MnSCU learned a lesson about transparency.

“I left pretty pleased,” she said. “I felt they were on to something and the chancellor is doing his best to let the change happen from within.”

Apparently, it didn’t take much to please Sen. Bonoff. Did Sen. Bonoff learn what McKinsey did to earn their $2,000,000? If she did, then it’s her responsibility to publish a report detailing McKinsey’s actions that justify their extravagant pay. If Sen. Bonoff just issues this statement, then people are left wondering if she’s just playing the role of PR flack or if McKinsey actually earned their money.

In fact, regardless of whether Sen. Bonoff publishes a report on her meetings, MnSCU owes Minnesotans a detailed report on the special insights McKinsey brought to the table. If Prof. Dean Frost is right, McKinsey was vastly overpaid:

Dean Frost, a professor at Bemidji State University and a former management consultant who reviewed some of the documents McKinsey produced, said the playbooks feature general, common-sense instructions on conducting a task force. He said the supporting research mostly includes publicly available materials rather than reports generated specially for MnSCU.

Without a detailed report from MnSCU outlining McKinsey’s work, Minnesotans should think that MnSCU ripped them off by spending $2,000,000 on a product they could’ve done themselves.

Chancellor Rosenstone should be brought before the House and Senate higher ed committees to explain why he signed off on spending $2,000,000 this foolishly. Further, he should be specifically asked why he agreed to such a secretive contract. This is the public’s money. They have the right to know how their money is spent. Rosenstone should be asked which management skills McKinsey brought to the project. Additionally, he should be askd why he still hasn’t released the unredacted contract. Finally, he should be questioned why he hasn’t put a high priority on being transparent.

Sen. Bonoff said that she’s “pretty please” with what McKinsey brought to the table, though she didn’t say what impressed her. That’s pretty flimsy. Still, it’s better than Rep. Pelowski sitting silent on the subject.

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Friday night at the Great Minnesota Get Together, Larry Jacobs offered his predictable commentary on the various races throughout most of the Almanac Roundtable. Then Prof. Jacobs said something so ridiculous that it must be challenged. Here’s what he said that’s questionable:

But, within the states, such as gubernatorial races, the dynamics are a little different. For instance, in Minnesota, the economy is doing very well. People feel much more optimistic than they do nationally and that’s probably going to create a little different dynamic.

It’s insulting to hear a person who’s one of the go-to political gurus in Minnesota say something that assinine. I’m tempted to start a petition telling Prof. Jacobs that there’s more to political punditry than regurgitating the DFL’s chanting points.

Further, later this weekend, I’m going to send Prof. Jacobs an email telling him that he isn’t helping his credibility to ignore DEED’s (Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development) monthly jobs reports, which he’s obviously doing. If he’d been reading those reports, he’d notice a couple things that won’t help Gov. Dayton.

First, DEED’s latest jobs report showed that a) Minnesota’s economy shed 4,200 jobs in July and b) DEED revised June’s jobs report downward by 3,600 jobs. Next, if Prof. Jacobs had paid attention, he’d see that Minnesota’s economy created a wimpy 2,900 total jobs thus far this year.

HINT TO PROF. JACOBS: Creating dozens of jobs a month isn’t proof of the economy “doing very well.” In most parts of the state, that’s considered rather pathetic.

Had Prof. Jacobs looked at the top 5 cities in terms of job creation for the past 12 months, the Twin Cities led the way with 46,339 jobs create, followed by St. Cloud with 2,894 jobs, then several cities with 1,000-1,200 jobs created each.

That means cities like Alexandria, Brainerd, Fairmont, Little Falls, Moorhead, Owatonna, Redwood Falls and Thief River Falls and regions like the Iron Range essentially didn’t experience job growth. Doesn’t Prof. Jacobs think that those cities and regions should have prospering economies? If not, why not?

I get it that most nonagricultural jobs are in the Twin Cities. I’ll stipulate that it’s probably been that way since the Perpich administration left office. I won’t stipulate, however, that that’s the right economic model for Minnesota. It isn’t right that Gov. Dayton’s economic policies haven’t created economic opportunities in outstate Minnesota.

Prof. Jacobs has spent too much time in Minneapolis. It’s time he started paying attention to cities outside the Twin Cities. Those cities deserve economic prosperity, too.

Yes, I was being sarcastic when I asked if Prof. Jacobs was a DFL operative. Still, I’ll start respecting Prof. Jacobs more when Prof. Jacobs starts paying attention to the world outside the Twin Cities on a consistent basis.

Minnesota’s economy isn’t “doing very well.” It’s time that the Twin Cities pundits figured that out.

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Fall Enrollment Falling Short of Goal
by Silence Dogood

The following Figure shows the fall FYE enrollment for SCSU from Fall 2006 through Fall 2013.

From the Figure, it is clear enrollment trends between Fall’06 to Fall’10 (increasing at a steady rate) and Fall’10 to Fall’13 (decreasing at a more rapid rate) are very different!

In Fall’13, the enrollment at SCSU was 6,083 FYE. As of August 19, 2014 the enrollment is 5,033 FYE, which is 1,050 FYE lower than the previous year and corresponds to a decline of 17.3%. If this was all there was to it, it would look REALLY bad! However, last fall there were also 567 FYE added due to concurrent enrollment students (on campus PSEO and S2S students). Since these students are typically added throughout fall semester it might be fair to add 567 FYE, which would bring the total to 5,600 FYE. As a result, this would reduce the drop from 1,050 FYE to 483 FYE or a decline of 7.9%. This might look a bit better.

Unfortunately, this is an overly simplistic solution and there are a couple of complications that need to be considered. Bear with me as I work through my approach to estimating Fall enrollment at SCSU.
First, the concurrent enrollment will most likely be higher than the previous year (based on recent enrollment trends in concurrent enrollment). If we assume a 10% growth, would translate into an additional 57 FYE. This would increase the fall enrollment to 5,657 FYE and corresponds to a decline of 7.0%. However, some of the estimated 624 FYE (567 + 57 = 624) of concurrent enrollment students are already registered. A majority of the on campus PSEO students have already registered for fall classes and a few of the S2S students are registered as well. Based on historical trends, if we assume that approximately 1/3rd of the students are registered, approximately 200 FYE need to be subtracted. This would reduce the fall enrollment to 5,400 FYE and corresponds to a drop of 11.2% on a year-to-year comparison.

Secondly, there are a number of students still to be registered. As a result, Fall’14 enrollment will not be down 11.2%! Last fall there were 83 new entering international students—most of whom were not yet in the US and probably not registered until the beginning of classes (which is next Monday). If we assume the same number of international students, increased by 10%, this will lead to approximately an additional 40 FYE. There will also be some additional new entering freshman (NEF) and new entering transfer students (NET), which could bump up enrollments approximately another 100 FYE.

Lastly, the graduate school produced 525 FYE in Fall’13 so some new and returning graduate students are still to register. As a WAG (wild ass guess), let’s assume that 150 FYE of graduate students are still to register. Combining all of these together yields a fall enrollment of 5,694 FYE. This number would translate into an overall decline of 6.4%.

The following Figure shows the Fall FYE enrollment for SCSU from 2006 through 2014—including an estimated 6.0% decline for Fall’14. The enrollment decline is reduced to 6.0% because of the uncertainty in some of the data and in hope of making a more conservative estimate of the decline.

It doesn’t take a degree in data analytics to see that there is a significant enrollment problem! In fact, the data analytics group projected a 3.3% decline this spring for FY15 enrollments and it doesn’t look like that projection is going to be very accurate! Remember, Summer FYE is in the bank and by the end of Fall semester about 60% of all fiscal year enrollment will have occurred thus making it very hard to affect the total decline.

Enrollment also translates almost directly into money. Last spring, when the administration was planning for an enrollment decline of 3.3%, it announced that it was beginning to plan for the $3,600,000 resultant shortfall. So, unless the enrollment totals 5,885 FYE (which would be the enrollment for a 3.3% decline), additional cuts will have to be made or funds will need to be drawn from the reserves. Last fall, former Provost Devinder Malhotra (now Interim President at Metro) stated that for each percent decline in enrollment an additional $628,000 would have to be cut from the budget. If former Provost Malhotra’s estimate of the financial impact for declining enrollment is correct, an additional $1,700,000 would have to be cut from the budget.

No one is talking about the data analytics group wildly missing the enrollment projection (82% error) or where the additional funds will come from. President Potter in his convocation address on Wednesday morning did not mention enrollment and only vaguely talked of “challenges” for the year. At some point, the President is going to have to admit that there is a serious enrollment problem. If the enrollment for the FY15 is down 6.0% and since the summer was down 9.4% this would require significant increases in enrollment for spring semester just to be only down 6.0% for the year, SCSU’s enrollment will fall to 11,661 FYE. From the enrollment high of 15,096 FYE in FY10, this represents a 22.8% drop in five years.

No one knows if this is the ‘right size’ but one university President remarked that ‘right sizing’ is just another word for failure. You decide if this enrollment trend is being successful. However, the one positive of declining enrollment is that finding parking around campus shouldn’t be a problem anymore!

The Case of the Vanishing Summer School Students
by Silence Dogood

The enrollment data for Summer School 2014 is in and it doesn’t look good! The MnSCU website lists summer FYE enrollment for Sum’14 at SCSU as 916 FYE. This compares to an enrollment of 1,011 FYE for Sum’13 and corresponds to a one-year decline of 95 FYE, which translates to a drop of 9.4%!

The FYE enrollment data for summer since 2005 is shown in the following Figure (the data comes from the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness website and for 2005-2013—the data for 2014 comes from the MnSCU website because the FY14 enrollment data on the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness website has not been updated) [http://www.stcloudstate.edu/ospe/research/data.asp]

Figure 1. FYE summer school enrollment for SCSU from 2005 through 2014.

From Figure 1 you can see that after relatively constant enrollment from 2005 through 2008 and even a small growth in enrollment between 2007 and 2010, summer school enrollment has come crashing down. The tabulated annual declines in enrollment are shown for the four straight years of decline.

Table 1. Year to year enrollment changes as a percent change in FYE.

From 2010 forward on a year-to-year basis the data does not look good. However, when looked at from Sum’10 to Sum’14, the four-year drop in enrollment is a staggering 30.9%!

One can speculate that SCSU is still ‘right sizing’. However, as of yet, no enrollment management plan has been presented so everyone is left to simply guess what the ‘right size’ is for SCSU. Perhaps when we get there, the administration will tell us.

One of the reasons Dr. Mahmoud Saffari (Vice President for Enrollment Management) was dismissed in September of 2011 was supposedly his failure to develop an enrollment management plan. In the three years since Dr. Saffari’s departure, the SCSU administration hasn’t put together an enrollment management plan. Meanwhile, enrollment is still dropping. It’s interesting that no one else has been fired! The only thing we know for sure is that enrollment at SCSU, at the end of FY14, was at 12,400 FYE. That means SCSU is smaller than at any time since 1999, when the FYE enrollment was 12,576.

Last spring, the administration projected that enrollment for FY15 would be down 3.3%. That would put the FYE enrollment at 11,990. SCSU may not have been under 12,000 FYE as far back as the early 1980′s but it is not possible to reliably go back any further because the data is not readily available.

I guess it’s fair to say that the administration is hoping that fall enrollments won’t continue the 9.4% drop evidenced in the summer or a 3.3% projected drop in enrollment for FY15 will just be a fantasy.

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There’s little question that St. Cloud State is losing a recruiting war with the University of North Dakota. A few years ago, St. Cloud State hired Earthbound Media Group to rebrand SCSU. EMG’s idea of rebranding was pretty much a failure on multiple fronts.

First, EMG created a pathetic slogan for billboards. That slogan, literally, was “Think. Do. Make a Difference.” It’s stunning to think that media professionals would think that young people would be attracted to a university with that wimpy of a slogan.

Unfortunately, that’s just the PR side of things. What’s worse is that, according to records I obtained through a Minnesota Data Practices Act request, SCSU paid EMG over $400,000 for their work.

Let’s compare those pathetic attempts with UND’s recruiting efforts. First, look at where they’re recruiting:

They’re recruiting students in the Twin Cities and in Brainerd. That means they’re recruiting in SCSU’s back yard. What’s alarming is that UND didn’t start this public recruitment drive in central Minnesota until SCSU announced that they were shutting down the Aviation program. It isn’t accidental that this is one of their biggest billboards:

It’s clear that UND didn’t hire EMG to put together that billboard. It’s apparent because UND’s billboard will get potential students’ attention and cause them to think about enrolling at UND.

Here’s the thing that should jump off the page for everyone. UND’s billboards are appealing because they’re energetic and challenging. SCSU’s billboards are lifeless and defensive. UND’s billboards say ‘Check us out’ while SCSU’s billboards say ‘Hi. We exist. Please notice us.’

SCSU isn’t losing the recruiting war with UND just because of these billboards. They’re losing, too, because UND has a drone program, which is catching young people’s attention. SCSU could’ve had a drone program within the Aviation program, too. That’s if they still had an aviation program.

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Reading this LTE was painful, though I’m certain reading it isn’t a tenth as painful as writing it or living through it. Here’s the opening of the letter:

In March, while still enrolled at the university, I was physically assaulted by a fellow student. In addition to pressing charges, I filed a complaint against the individual through the appropriate university channels.

In May, he was “found responsible for violations of the Student Code of Conduct No. 3 (physical harm) and No. 4 (harassment)” and sanctioned to one year of university probation, “a written reprimand specifying the violation for which the student has been held responsible. According to University policies, participation in some University activities and programs may be restricted while on University Probation.”

I appealed the decision on the basis that I believed the sanction was far too lenient. In my appeal letter, I explained the sanction would have little, if any, impact on my assailant. I also described the debilitating psychological effects of the trauma and expressed my sincere belief the individual would reoffend. My appeal was denied. My story is not unique.

The punishment is too lenient. This is the university equivalent of Boko Haram getting a harshly worded letter from the UN. This student was assaulted. Charges have been filed. You’d think that President Potter would do something other than play the part of not-that-innocent bystander.

This is proof that he isn’t a leader. The probation, complete with written reprimand, was handed down in May. It’s now the end of July and President Potter hasn’t seen fit to change university policies regarding physical assaults on campus. What type of man doesn’t act when one of his students is physically assaulted?

This is the closing of the SCSU student’s LTE:

With Elliot Rodger’s fatal misogyny still fresh in our minds, and the increasing amount of criticism colleges are facing for not handling sexual assault cases appropriately, one would think colleges would be doing everything in their power to protect females. That does not seem to be the case.

Something needs to change.

I heartily agree, starting with harsher punishments for the perpetrators. It isn’t enough to put a student on probation. The student who allegedly committed this heinous act needs to be suspended from classes until this case is brought to court or is dropped. While he’s suspended, he shouldn’t be able to either leave the state or enroll at another MnSCU university or at the U of M.

The other thing that needs to change is that Chancellor Rosenstone and the Trustees need to bring President Potter into a meeting to find out why he didn’t act decisively to protect this young lady. The meeting shouldn’t brief. It shouldn’t be gentle, either.

President Potter needs to find out that he didn’t live up to his high office. He needs to hear that he failed this young lady. He needs to know that his behavior in this matter wasn’t decisive enough. He needs to know that his actions need to restore justice. President Potter needs to know that SCSU’s policies need to protect victims, not coddle people who allegedly commit assaultss.

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Over the past couple of years, one thing that’s become apparent is that student fees are being levied to pay for some questionable things. This article highlights something outrageous that student fees paid for:

Samantha Hedwall, the Women’s Center Assistant Director at MSUM, told Campus Reform that the program is a “sex education class for the college age student” as “it combines sex education with laughter.”

The university is bringing in two speakers from the organization Sex Discussed Here! to speak to college students about sex and sell their merchandise. The lecture is aimed at freshman, though some are still minors when they enter in the fall. In Minnesota, being a minor and engaging in certain sexual acts could lead to a charge of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree.

However, according to Hedwall, “You don’t have to be 18 to learn about sex.”

Hedwall explained that the program touches on the issues such as consent, female orgasms, sexual decisions, tips for partners, as well as “being a man, being a woman, [and] being in a safe sex, same gender identity group.”

While the lecture itself is optional, the fees in order to pay for this event—and others like it—are mandatory. Every student at MSUM must pay $453.60 in activity fees each year in order to fund these programs. The Women’s Center received a subsidy for 2013-2014 totaling $33,114 from student activity fees, while the LGBT Center received $16,304.

While I won’t be shocked to find out that students voted for these fees, I’d be surprised if they thought their fees paid for BS like this. Further, I’m betting that the people running the Women’s Center and the LGBT Center weren’t lobbying for these subsidies from student fees.

Simply put, this is a ripoff to students. They shouldn’t have to pay for any events sponsored by their university’s Women’s Center or LGBT Center. For that matter, taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for these centers’ budgets. If universitiess want either or both of these centers, let’s see if they can find sponsors who are willing to pay for their activities.

In the past, universities have pushed for higher student fees. In fact, that’s happened twice in the last 5 years at St. Cloud State. The first time, the Potter administration said that they’d have to shut the football program if student fees weren’t raised. This year, the Potter administration made a similar, though not as dramatic, pitch.

Student fees are just one way that universities rip off students. Unfortunately, it isn’t the only way they rip off students.

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