Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category

It’s difficult to determine how much Zach Dorholt’s dismal debate performance last night will affect his race against Jim Knoblach. Still, for people watching the debate either on TV or from the City Council Chambers got proof that Zach Dorholt is an empty suit. The gravitas gap between Dorholt and St. Cloud businessman Jim Knoblach was frequently on display.

When Sylvia Scheibel asked how jobs were created, Dorholt had the first response, which was a jaw-dropper:

Through demand. Demands build toothpaste. Companies don’t build toothpaste.

That’s absurd thinking. Did demand create laptop computers, iPhones or MP3’s? Did the stimulus create a growing economy? That was the foundation of President Obama’s stimulus bill. GDP didn’t start picking up, if you can call it that, until after the Federal Reserve started pumping $1,000,000,000,000 a year into the economy through quantitative easing. Even then, economic growth has been anemic, the worst recovery since WWII.

Earlier in the debate, Dorholt talked about how Minnesota had to “invest more money” to match skilled workers with the needs of Minnesota’s businesses. Later, Dorholt reversed himself, saying that, under DFL control, the Higher Ed committees “did a good job” in matching businesses with the skilled workers that they needed. It’s impossible to do both.

Saying that Dorholt isn’t an impressive speaker is understatement. Saying that he’s a better orator than he is a policy wonk is accurate. The best thing I can say is that he’s a typical politician. That isn’t the type of trifecta I’m hoping for.

Jim Knoblach was clearly the most informed candidate in that matchup.

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NEF Numbers—Is President Potter ‘Out of the Loop’ or Does He Just Make It Up?
by Silence Dogood

I recently reread an article by SCTimes reporter Dave Unze from August 29, 2014 “St. Cloud budget deficit could be 10 million.” In the article, President Potter is quoted “The number of new first-year students is up and the university retained more students from last year to this year, he said.”

The first part of the statement “the number of first-year students is up” directly contradicts information released by the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness (OSPE) on September 9, 2014:

Using the data from the website for the OPSE, the following plot of New Freshmen Enrollment (NEF) is obtained:

Clearly, the number of NEF for Fall’14 (1,680) is less than the number of NEF for Fall’13 (1,703). The number is only 23 students fewer, which corresponds to a decrease of 1.2% but it certainly is not up! So either President Potter is misinformed or confused about the number of NEF attending SCSU this Fall or he just said what he hoped was true. Whatever the actual explanation for the Potter misstatement, it is troubling that the President did not have a clear picture regarding a most important enrollment metric.

Classes began at SCSU on August 25th, the article was published on August 29th and the 10th day enrollment numbers came out on September 9th. Did the numbers of NEF somehow change? Not likely. While the total enrollment numbers change from the first-day, to the 10th day, to the 30th day, to the final enrollment, the number of NEF may only change by one or two students. The NEF from the 30th day, which was released on October 9, 2014, is up from 1,680 to 1,683 for a whopping increase of three!

However, let’s assume that the number of NEF for Fall’14 was up from Fall’13. If SCSU had 21 more NEF and its number of NEF was 1,704 for Fall’14, this would still be a drop of 697 NEF since Fall’08 corresponding to a drop of 29.0%! Using the actual decline of 718 NEF, the percentage drop is 29.9%.

Is there a university within MnSCU that has had even half of the drop in NEF as SCSU? The answer is no. From F’08 to F’14, Mankato’s NEF numbers are down 7.1%. From F’08 to F’14, Winona’s NEF numbers are down 12.2%. SCSU stands alone as the clear leader in this department.

As to the second part of the “Times” quote, until October 16, 2014 when the Third HuskyData Newsletter was published, no contemporary data has been shared by the administration about the NEF retention rate from Fall’13 to Fall’14 or for prior years for that matter. So, it turns out that President Potter was actually correct in saying that the NEF retention rate is up (70.5% for Fall’12 to 72.8% for Fall’13).

However, with a decline of 718 NEF, which includes the reduction of the number of students who did not meet SCSU’s admission standards (DGS now ACE), one would expect that NEF retention rates would be up and up quite a lot simply based on the academic success profile of the incoming class. Additionally, the increase in the number of NEF due to the increase in the retention rate amounts to an increase of 39 students. Since headcount enrollment is down 5.1% from Fall’13, as reported in the Husky Data 30th Day Special Edition, this amounts to a loss of 776 students. As a result, an increase of 39 students hardly makes a dent in the loss of 776 students. So, President Potter was correct is saying that the NEF retention rate is up from the prior year. However, getting excited about an increase of 39 students when the overall headcount for Fall semester is down 776 students might be unwarranted.

Until October 16, 2014, NEF retention rates had not been disclosed for a number of years, so at least making them public now is a small step in the right direction. A skeptic with a cynical perspective might have speculated that the reason not sharing the until now is the fact that despite dramatically reducing the numbers of high risk for dropping out students (DGS/ACE), the retention rate is up an embarrassingly small amount and considerably lower than in the past as well as considerably lower than rival Mankato.

Additionally, the general retention rate for the largest group of SCSU students, those returning to study in years 3 to graduation has also not been reported for many years. Without the sharing of data, one is left to wonder and given the past history of the Potter administration’s data sharing, as documented by the Great Place to Work Survey data, it is simply more likely to be more of the same.

A popular proverb attributed to Joseph P. Kennedy (father of President John Kennedy) says

The saying can be modified for SCSU

Bucking The Trend
Can SCSU Be Like The Universities In Utah or Pennsylvania?
by Silence Dogood

If you hang around SCSU for more than even a few minutes, you’ll probably hear something about the dramatic enrollment declines over the past five years (21.8% decline). Almost in the same breath, you’ll hear that the decline is due to demographics. People then nod and shake their head like this is a pronouncement from on high and it is often not challenged. However, many colleges and universities are not accepting the simple solution of demographics for their enrollment declines! Two state systems, Utah and Pennsylvania, provide examples that document that enrollment decline is not preordained. Both states higher education system’s recent enrollment trends have significantly out performed SCSU’s and Utah bucked the national trend by actually increasing enrollment.

According to a report released by the Utah System of Higher Education on October 8, 2014,

“Utah is bucking the national trend of decreasing enrollments and overall our numbers continue to hold steady.” According to the US Census the nation saw a 5% decline in overall higher education enrollment over the three year time period from 2011-13. In the Utah higher education system, full-time equivalent students (FTE) increased from 106,680 in Fall’13 to 106,816 in Fall’14 for an increase of 136 FTE, which corresponds to an increase of 0.13%. This is at the same time that headcount enrollment declined from 167,594 in Fall’13 to 167,317 in Fall’14 for a drop of 277 students, which corresponds to a drop of 0.17%. Over the same three year time period, SCSU’s FYE enrollment dropped 17.3%, which is almost 3.5 times larger than the national overall decline in higher education enrollment. For Fall’13 to Fall’14, SCSU’s enrollment looks to be down a bit over 5%, which again is much larger than the national trend and the Utah system.

Not all of the colleges and universities in the Utah system changed the same amount. Salt Lake Community College’s (SLCC) enrollment is actually down 5.1% from Fall’13 to Fall’14. The report continues to explain that for SLCC: “As a large part of their student body is enrolled part-time, we believe this decline (in headcount) is due to more people returning to full-time employment as the economy improves,” said Dave Buhler, Utah Commissioner of Higher Education. Removing SLCC from the numbers for the rest of the system, the University of Utah’s system grew 1.0% from Fall’13 to Fall’14.

The enrollment of 27,000 high school students in concurrent enrollment courses are also not yet reported and will appear in “a more complete picture of fall enrollments” when final semester numbers are released. As a result, Utah’s final numbers will be even higher than those reported after three weeks of class.

The data from Utah shows that the FTE enrollment is increasing while headcount enrollment is decreasing: “What that’s telling us is there are more students going full time,” Buhler said. More full-time students often translates into higher graduation rates, especially for those working toward a four-year degree, according Melanie Heath, spokeswoman for the Utah System of Higher Education.

According to a Deseret News article on October 8, 2014,

“Part of the rise is due to marketing. A program called ’15 to Finish’ urges students at all eight of Utah’s public colleges and universities to enroll full time.” Most bachelor’s degrees can be completed in four years when the student takes 15 credits each semester.

The tuition charged at some universities “plateaus” at a certain number of credits to encourage students to take more credits. This past April, Utah State University’s (USU) tuition plateau was lowered from 13 to 12 credits following a recommendation from the Utah System of Higher Education intended to encourage students to enroll in a full load of 15 credits. A tuition “plateau” means that “students can take up to 18 credit hours per semester, but they only pay for 12.”

Additionally, at USU students were charged as much as 60 percent more per credit for online classes than traditional on-campus classes and online credits weren’t included in the tuition plateau for regular courses. For this fall, USU lowered tuition for online classes to the same as that for regular classes and now includes online course in the tuition plateau.

On October 10th, 2014 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an article headlined “Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education hopeful enrollment drop is abating.” The following excerpt from the article provides specifics:

For SCSU, the FYE enrollment decline from FY10 through FY15 is going to be 21.8%, which is nearly three times larger than the decline experienced by the Pennsylvania State University System over the same period of time.

The article goes on to describe the impact of the decline:

Here is a break down of enrollment by school in Pennsylvania and just like within MnSCU not all schools are experiencing the same impact of “demographics”:

Just as within MnSCU, the two largest schools have been headed in different directions in enrollment the last five years. West Chester has grown 11% while Indiana declined 5%. West Chester was the second largest university in the Pennsylvania State System just like Mankato was the second largest in MnSCU. Both have now moved to become the largest school in each of their systems.

The Utah and Pennsylvania systems and individual schools within those systems that have bucked the national trend in declining enrollment offer lessons in how to increase or simply stem the decline in enrollment. SCSU can do many things to increase enrollment and might even learn some things from its in-state rival Mankato.

“Banding tuition,” which is the Minnesota version of a “tuition plateau”, might help students enroll for more credits and graduate sooner. Minnesota State University–Mankato has banded tuition and that in itself might be reason enough for doing it. Banding tuition might not directly increase tuition revenue but graduating students earlier might be a way of having more ‘happy students,’ which is probably the best marketing tool a university could have. Simply banding tuition a few years ago might have even eliminated the need to spend nearly half a million dollars on a ‘rebranding’ campaign.

The SCSU website currently lists tuition for regular undergraduate courses at $219.45 per credit. For online/guided study courses, tuition is listed at $312.40, which is 42.3% more expensive. Perhaps if SCSU wants to grow its full time equivalent enrollment, simply following what is happening at growing Pennsylvania and Utah schools might be warranted. Reducing the cost of online courses and banding tuition might increase retention and graduation rates and bring SCSU more in line with rival Mankato State. If nothing else, it might slow the rate at which Mankato is moving further ahead of SCSU.

Demographics can be used as the solution for almost every type of enrollment decline. If you believe that fate is ‘written in the stars,’ you disregard all of the data that is contrary to your preconceived beliefs. Unfortunately, enough universities across the nation are growing that they are forcing the other colleges and universities within their state systems to rethink their answers.

If the total number of students heading to college is decreasing, how are some colleges and universities increasing their numbers of students? The answer is quite simple: competition! Some schools have tried to focus on beating their competition. In a situation, where enrollment is static, it is an example of a ‘zero sum game’ in which some schools win at the expense of other schools (i.e., some schools lose). In a situation where enrollment is declining, the competition becomes even more cutthroat just to remain the same.

The data shows that the competition for SCSU is not two miles up the road at St. Cloud Technical and Community College, it’s 113 miles almost due south at Minnesota State University—Mankato. Clearly, Mankato has been kicking SCSU’s ‘base’ the past five years and who knows, now that SCSU’s has fallen to number 2, SCSU’s new motto should be “We will try harder!” Maybe in the next rebranding campaign there will be some really cool buttons!

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This article highlights what’s wrong with Steven Rosenstone’s administration of MnSCU. It also highlights what’s wrong with administrators’ practice of cronyism. Here’s a prime example:

Citing suspicions of administrative secrecy aroused by the system’s initially undisclosed hiring of McKinsey & Company, a prominent consulting firm, the leadership of the two unions voted unanimously on Thursday to tell the system’s chancellor, Steven J. Rosenstone, that the unions would no longer participate in the planning of Charting the Future, a systemwide reorganization effort.

The Inter Faculty Organization and the Minnesota State College Faculty, “which represents faculty members at two-year institutions”, have legitimate concerns about Chancellor Rosenstone’s secrecy. If this happened to me, I’d be both paranoid and upset:

When union officials sought a copy of the contract given to McKinsey, the system provided them with a version that was heavily redacted at McKinsey’s request, saying the system needed to respect the firm’s desire to protect trade secrets.

That isn’t all of it. Here’s more:

The system subsequently offered to let university officials see the full contract in private, on the condition it not be relayed elsewhere, but they refused to view it under such a restriction.

I hope the IFO and the MSCF take MnSCU and McKinsey to court to have a judge determine what parts of the contract contain McKinsey’s legitimate trade secrets and how much was improperly redacted. It’s just a hunch but I suspect that the contract’s redactions don’t have much to do with trade secrets, just like the US Department of Justice isn’t releasing documents on Fast and Furious because of executive privilege.

With the Fast and Furious documents, I suspect that the documents aren’t getting turned over because they’re embarrassing to President Obama and AG Holder. The suspicious side of me thinks that MnSCU isn’t releasing the unredacted contract because they’d be ridiculed for the provisions Chancellor Rosenstone agreed to. I’m suspicious that a contentious document has more information redacted than it has readable information:

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.

That’s just part of it. Here’s why I’m particularly suspicious:

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.

Based on MnSCU’s past actions, the IFO and MSCF have legitimate reasons for not trusting Chancellor Rosenstone.

Trust is earned. At this point, Rosenstone has lost more trust than he’s gained. This incident alone justifies people’s suspicions:

Kari Cooper, president of the Minnesota State University Student Association, said Rosenstone and a campus president attacked her suggestions and questioned her leadership at a recent meeting. “I left that meeting in tears,” she said. “I wasn’t going to sit there as a student and be talked to like that from people who are supposed to be supporting me and supposed to be collaborating with me.”

I won’t accuse President Potter of being that “campus president” who “attacked [Kari's] suggestions and questioned [Kari's] leadership because I haven’t confirmed that information. I certainly can’t say it wasn’t President Potter, though. It wouldn’t be the first time President Potter viciously attacked a student.

Rosenstone is secretive. He’s hired companies that think they’re out of the Minnesota Data Practices Act’s reach. What’s worst is that he’s kept people hired who verbally attack students. That’s the type of cancer than needs to be eradicated ASAP. If it isn’t eliminated ASAP, the Rosenstone cancer will metastasize.

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Demographics Be Damned!
Declines Can Happen All by Themselves
by Silence Dogood

Who says demographics project declining higher education enrollments? According to an article in the New York Post

“With students heading to college in record numbers, local institutions are constructing everything from new dormitories to academic buildings, hoping to attract the best and brightest students and professors.”

The article further cites:

“Since 2003, the City University of New York’s student population has increased by nearly 50 percent, requiring an expansion.”

Clearly, this is not what has happened at SCSU. The website of the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness shows the FYE enrollment from FY2000 through FY2014.

The figure shows that, with a small decline in enrollment from FY04 through FY06, the overall enrollment increased by 6.3% from 2003 to 2010. Then things changed significantly. From FY2010 to FY2014, enrollment decreased 18.0%. Over the time period from 2003 through 2014, while the City College’s enrollment increased 50%, SCSU’s enrollment decreased 12.8%. The real question is was the decrease in enrollment avoidable?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics annual report The Condition of Education

“While total enrollment increased overall between 1990 and 2012, enrollment in 2012 was nearly 2 percent lower than in 2010.”

If SCSU followed the national trend you might have expected a decline of 2% between 2010 and 2012. Unfortunately for SCSU, enrollment declined 7.7%, which is nearly four times the national decline.

“The Condition of Education” report began with this statement:

Clearly, enrollment in higher education is set for an increase over the next ten years. The following figure shows the actual and projected enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions by level of institution: Fall 1990-2023.

From the graph, it looks like postsecondary undergraduate enrollment in 4-year schools will rise from 10.6 million in 2012 to 12.0 million in 2023, which corresponds to a growth of 13%. Dividing by 10 projects that this enrollment increase averages 1.3% per year. While this is certainly not a large rate of growth, it is not a decline. It certainly appears that SCSU’s substantial enrollment drop is due more to an inability to compete and secure market share rather than the impact of demographics.

The biggest question going forward for SCSU is this: can it reverse its fortunes? The expensive rebranding from a couple of years ago certainly didn’t work to stem the decrease in enrollment, but perhaps the mantra “Think, Do, Make a Difference” can be the guide for planning for change. Optimistically, many people at SCSU remain hopeful that a turnaround can happen. However, many “think” the current leadership at SCSU is not up to the challenge. In fact, the results of the Great Place to Work Survey clearly show a lack of confidence in the Potter Administration to “Do” anything that will “Make a Difference”. An overwhelming majority of faculty, staff, and administration that participated in the survey (634 of 1,582 of those invited responded—39% response rate), distrust President Potter and his administration. Any hope for a turnaround lies in a different kind of change. If those who are to do the thinking and doing to make a difference at SCSU remain uninspired because of failed leadership, it is time for a change in the leaders.

Looking 185 miles Northwest up Interstate 94, a new university president is making a difference. Just three months into her presidency, Anne Blackhurst led a fundraising campaign that raised $1,200,000, the largest amount of funds raised in a single event in Minnesota Stat University, Moorhead’s history. Through her efforts, the faculty, staff and students have been energized. The first steps turning around MSU, Moorhead have begun and the university with the second largest enrollment decline since 2010 is moving quickly. Given Blackhust’s contagious enthusiasm, it’s hard not to believe their turnaround is under way!

At SCSU, it seems that the administration has been asleep. Until recently, they even denied that a decline was occurring! Now that the decline has led to a projected $9,542,000 deficit for FY15, which was only documented after 25% of the fiscal year had already passed, the administration is now awake and struggling to find ways to close the deficit. SCSU is faced with trying to close a deficit equal to 6.3% of its $151,734,000 general fund budget. Given that a large percentage (78%) of the budget is due to personnel costs, there isn’t any doubt that the solution will result in fewer employees at SCSU. Unfortunately, during reorganization in 2010, $14,000,000 was eliminated from the budget and MANY positions were eliminated. Any relatively painless reductions have already been made. It is going to be a very painful process to reduce spending $9,542,000 and bring the budget back into balance.

One single decision made by President Potter, his contract with the Wedum Foundation for the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments, has cost SCSU $7,400,000 during the era of declining enrollment. Last spring, SCSU had already lost $6,400,000 on the first four years of operation of Coborn’s Plaza Apartments. Despite that, during a February 20th interview with the SCTimes editorial board, Potter declared Coborn’s Plaza a “success.” Losing $6,400,000 isn’t a ‘success’. It’s a failure. Calling it a success is just spin.

In the Potter budget for FY15, it is estimated $1,000,000 will go to cover the loss for Coborn’s Plaza. This means the loss on the Coborn’s Plaza apartments represents 77.6% of the total budget shortfall faced this year. Thus, without the loss on Coborn’s Plaza, the budget would only need to cut just over $2,500,000 this year to restore balance. Even cutting $2,500,000 would be significant and painful. However, cutting $9,542,000 instead of 2,542,000 is something that will be incredibly difficult. It certainly will not lead to an improvement in the morale on campus because so much of the cut is a direct result of poor financial decisions by President Potter. Does anyone really think that if the Great Place to Work survey was to be repeated, the results for the administration would improve? Does anyone think the administration that has led SCSU to this point can provide the motivation and leadership to turn things around?

Unfortunately, it looks like the university with the largest enrollment decline in MnSCU’s history seems to be following the same path that led to the decline in the first place—a big dose of crisis management with dash of wishful thinking and happy talk. President Potter, enjoy your trip to China.

Last week, Alex Friedrich reported that MNSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone made this provocative statement:

While the heads of the unions may have made the regrettable decision to walk away from the table, their seats will be there for them whenever they decide to return.

That’s from Rosenstone’s letter. That wasn’t all he said. This comment from Chancellor Rosenstone is intellectually misleading, if not dishonest:

Charting the Future is an unprecedented effort to engage students, faculty, staff, and all of our campuses in seeking creative solutions to significant threats to our future. The effort is nothing short of the most broadly consultative initiative in the history of the system, involving more than 5,000 students, faculty, and staff across the state.

I’d agree with Chancellor Rosenstone if he meant that CtF is consultant-driven. I’d especially agree if he was referring to McKinsey & Co. If he’s implying that they value other people’s contributions, I’d argue that this quote ends that fallacy:

Others, however, says Rosenstone appears angry and aggressive when he gets suggestions over things such as power-sharing.

Kari Cooper, president of the Minnesota State University Student Association, said Rosenstone and a campus president attacked her suggestions and questioned her leadership at a recent meeting. “I left that meeting in tears,” she said. “I wasn’t going to sit there as a student and be talked to like that from people who are supposed to be supporting me and supposed to be collaborating with me.”

It’s been rumored that Rosenstone has a temper. If Ms. Cooper’s statement is accurate, then that’s a verification that he’s got a temper. Whether he’s got a temper, though, isn’t as important as whether he’s up to the job of running MnSCU. Both questions, though, fall short of the most important question, which is whether MnSCU leadership is capable of consistently making the right decisions.

At this point, there’s little reason to think that they’re capable of managing anything more complex than a hotdog stand. Friday, I wrote about the Davenport-Hoffner fiasco in which Mankato President Richard Davenport terminated Head Football Coach Todd Hoffner. Davenport terminated Hoffner after charges were dismissed by a Blue Earth County judge. Add to that the IFO’s bill of particulars that I wrote about in this post. This was the highlight of that post:

It is time to re-focus on the present realities of our state university campuses instead of turning out a stream of planning documents that purport to chart the future.

I don’t want an administration that intimidates students and that doesn’t discipline university presidents when they make major mistakes charting anything, much less charting the future. I certainly don’t want an administrator who said this:

“Change is hard, and is always accompanied by high emotion and complication. Without a doubt, some things could have been handled differently, and some handled better. I remain committed to doing my best to make sure all opinions are heard and all people are treated respectfully.”

then intimidate or belittle students working on the project charting anything. Officially, Chancellor Rosenstone has the authority. Being a boss is different than being a leader, though. Based on this information, I’d interpret the information to mean that Rosenstone is a boss, not a leader.

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Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic!
by Silence Dogood

The front-page article in the St. Cloud Times on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 proclaimed:

Normally this kind of headline would invoke fears of doom and gloom to an academic institution. However, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Richard Green is quoted as saying

“university officials anticipated the decrease in enrollment, and it’s in line with what they have seen in the past several years.”

Unfortunately, Interim Provost Green has drunken President Potter’s Kool-Aid and fallen into the trap of looking at headcount enrollments, which mean very little. A portion of a table from the website of the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness shows the headcount and the percentage change for Fall 2010 through Fall 2013.

A portion of a table from the website of the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness shows the percentage change in FYE enrollment for FY11 through FY14.

In comparing the two tables, in each case, the percent change in the FYE enrollment, the number upon which budgets are based, is SUBSTANTIALLY lower than the corresponding percent change in the Fall headcount enrollment. Critical to note is that for Fall 2013, the headcount enrollment was only down 0.9% but the FYE enrollment for the year (FY14) was down 5.1%. If the headcount enrollment is down by 5.1%, one might certainly expect the FYE enrollment will follow the pattern of the prior four years and be down substantially more than the decline in headcount enrollment.

If the FYE enrollment is down only 5.5% for FY15, the following table of FYE enrollment by fiscal year would be obtained.

With an FYE enrollment of 11,700 for FY15, SCSU will have lost 3,396 FYE since FY10, which represents a decline of 22.5%! No other university in the MnSCU system has ever declined by this percent over any time period!

Too bad the administration’s response is total spin in saying everyone else in MnSCU (or the nation) is down or

“it’s in line with what they have seen in the past several years.”

seems to be acceptable without producing the supporting data. From the administration’s own data, the headcount enrollment for fall has only been down more than 5% once in the last four years and one of the last four years was actually up by 2.9%! The last time the fall headcount enrollment was down by more than 5% (5.6%), the FYE enrollment was down for the fiscal year an astounding 6.9%. Recognizing that the FYE enrollment for the fiscal year is historically and substantially lower than the decline in fall headcount enrollment, people should be asking some very serious questions about what has been going on and what might be the cause of the unprecedented decline.

Consider the question. Has any other MnSCU university, in the history of the MnSCU system, ever seen a one-year decline in FYE enrollment of 6.9%? The answer. NO! SCSU holds the record for the largest one-year decline in enrollment. On top of that SCSU followed the 6.9% decline with declines of 6.4%, 5.1% and now another decline over 5%. This is an impressive negative trend, which is unprecedented!

Let’s look at the commonly heard statement that “everybody’s down.” The data for fall FYE enrollments for all of the MnSCU universities is shown in the following Figure.

The data was current as of September 17, 2014 (after the 20th Day but before the 30th Day enrollment numbers). For Fall 2014, all of the MnSCU universities are down. It is important to understand that these are not final enrollment numbers so they may improve somewhat. Universities such as Southwest and SCSU with very large high school student enrollments may increase their numbers as these students are registered. However, in looking at the Figure, only two universities are down by a significant amount: Moorhead and SCSU. Moorhead is down 6.2% and SCSU leads the way again being down 7.9%. Over the time period shown, from Fall 2007 through Fall 2014, some universities are up slightly and some are down slightly. Only Moorhead and SCSU show significant declines. From its peak in 2010, Moorhead is down 16.5%. From its peak in 2010, SCSU is down 22.8%! The enrollment decline at Moorhead cost the President her job. No other university shows any decline even remotely close to the decline at SCSU. So is the statement that everybody’s down consonant with the data? You be the judge!

As to the administration’s claim of SCSU being larger than Mankato State. Simply take a look at the FYE enrollments. The difference in FYE this fall is 1,079 FYE. This amounts to Mankato having a 19.5% larger FYE enrollment than SCSU. When you look at headcount, SCSU appears larger than Mankato because SCSU has nearly 2,000 more concurrently enrolled high school students. But does having several thousand more high school students receiving college credit with most never stepping on the SCSU campus really make SCSU larger than Mankato?

Provost Green is also quoted:

The first-time, full-time retention rate increased by 2.3 percentage points. And retention of provisionally admitted students increased 6 percentage points.

Looking at the data from the website of the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness you can see the retention rate for New Entering First-year Students (NEF), ACS/DGS students, University Honors Program students, and New Entering Transfer Students (NET)

The NEF rate and the ACE/DGS rate do show improvements as stated. However the NET rate is stagnant and the University Honors Program rate is down 4%. In fact, looking back, the retention rate for the University Honors Program has decreased from 95% to 82%. A decline of 13% in the best and brightest students at SCSU should probably be cause for concern.

Is a small increase in the retention rate of the NEF students important? Certainly. However the difference of a retention rate of 71% and 73% of 1,662 students leads to an increase in the retention of 33 students. This is certainly good. However, the decline from Fall 2012 to Fall 2013 in NEF students is a decline of 220 students. If the number of NEF had not dropped and the retention rate stayed at 71%, there would be 123 additional students on campus. Clearly, the decline in NEF students is MUCH more significant than a small increase in retention rate.

Provost Green also says:

“The university increased its number of students of color by 2.3 percent this year compared with last year.”

This is laudable. An increase in students of color by 2.3% represents an increase of 55 students.

Additionally, Provost Green continues:

“The number of international students also has grown. There was an almost 9 percent increase in international students this year.”

This is also laudable. An increase in international students by 9% represents an increase of 92 students.

However, these increases in students of color and international students have to be considered in the light that the headcount enrollment is down 5.1%, which translates into a decline of 828 students from the previous fall. Clearly, these increases are good things. However, it seems like complimenting the arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic after hitting the iceberg. Until the factors that make SCSU an outlier in declining enrollment among MnSCU institutions are fully investigated and strategies developed to overcome them, it is hard to imagine any other outcome for SCSU than that experienced by the Titanic. And it probably won’t matter about SCSU’s new logo, fancy new mascot or branding campaign because they are all really more like rearranging the deck chairs—and we all know how well that worked out.

Proving that they’re most interested in pumping up the DFL, the St. Cloud Times didn’t even bother interviewing Jim Knoblach, the GOP-endorsed candidate for HD-14B. Meanwhile, they positively gushed about “impressive DFL challenger Emily Jensen.” Ms. Jensen is still a student at St. Ben’s while running for Jeff Howe’s seat.

Saying that the Times lack of professionalism is showing is understatement. This afternoon, I confirmed with Jim Knoblach wasn’t contacted by the Times. Consequently, he wasn’t interviewed about the Times’ endorsement. Here’s what they wrote about the candidates for HD-14B:

Two very strong candidates, DFLer Dorholt and former GOP Rep. Jim Knoblach, are vying in a marquee race to represent a diverse district that covers mostly the eastern half of the St. Cloud metro area. Through his personal, business and community experiences, Dorholt is best positioned to represent a district that’s home to a diverse mix of young people, new residents, and deep-rooted homeowners and businesses.

Reflective of that constituency, Dorholt has been part of a DFL legislative majority that has enacted many changes benefiting most of those constituents. Look no further than the minimum wage hike, expanded health coverage, and investing more in B-12 education while curbing the costs of higher education.

Challenger Knoblach served in the House from 1995-2006, including as chair of the powerful House Capital Investment and House Ways and Means Committees. In those roles, he proved himself to be a business-minded fiscal conservative, even when it sometimes meant minimal support for measures that directly benefited his district and the St. Cloud area.

Again, both candidates are well-qualified. Dorholt gets the nod, though, because his priorities better match the diverse needs of this district.

The Times didn’t just refuse to interview Jim Knoblach. When they published their endorsement, they threw in this cheap shot, too:

In those roles, he proved himself to be a business-minded fiscal conservative, even when it sometimes meant minimal support for measures that directly benefited his district and the St. Cloud area.

Never mind the fact that Dorholt did nothing to question St. Cloud State’s questionable financial decisions while he was the Vice-Chair of the House Higher Ed Committee. That isn’t setting the right priorities for his district. Dorholt’s willingness to ignore what’s happening at SCSU while he’s vice-chair of the House Higher Ed Committee stinks of irresponsibility.

Further, Dorholt’s vote for sales taxes on warehousing services and farm equipment repairs weren’t in the interests of his district or St. Cloud. Dorholt’s vote for the Senate Office Building definitely wasn’t a vote for this district’s priorities. His silence during this year’s session on fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges and the DFL legislature’s refusal to fix Minnesota’s potholes was disgraceful.

Simply put, Zach Dorholt didn’t show leadership during this session despite his being a vice-chair of an important committee.

Finally, the Times calls this “a marquee race.” If that’s true, why didn’t they even bother interviewing one of the candidates? From what I’ve seen, and I can only base this on the Times’ actions, the Times decided long ago who they were endorsing. That’s likely why they didn’t bother interviewing Jim Knoblach, the most qualified candidate for the job.

The Times has a history of doing this type of thing. In 2008, the Times endorsed Rob Jacobs when he ran for Dan Severson’s seat. That year, Jacobs said he wasn’t an expert on transportation issues or health care. The Times endorsed him anyway. 2008 was a strong year for the DFL. Dan Severson defeated Jacobs by 10 points.

The Times has a bigger readership. I just wish that they were professionals.

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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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