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In 2013, the DFL said that they were raising taxes on “the rich” to pay for property tax relief for the middle class. I wrote here about how that failed…miserably:

The Princeton School Board in a split vote on Dec. 16 increased the school district tax levy by 25.16 percent for taxes payable 2015 to fund the 2015-16 school year.

This was a departure from the board’s originally proposed 33.87 percent hike. The total levy will be a little more than $6.091 million, a $300,000 increase over this year’s levy. The original proposal would have increased the levy $724,000.

A 25% increase in property taxes isn’t property tax relief for the middle class. That’s a gigantic, crippling middle class tax increase. Thank God the Princeton School Board exercised some restraint. If they hadn’t, the property tax increase would’ve been almost 34%.

I wrote this post to question why this historic property tax increase was needed in light of the DFL’s constant reminder that they paid back the school shift and raised per pupil spending. If I had $5 for every time the DFL, ABM or the Dayton campaign ran an ad talking about making an “historic investment in education”, I’d be wealthy. Either the DFL’s “investment in education” isn’t as historic as they’ve repeatedly said or the Princeton School Board is spending money recklessly.

Actually, there is another possibility. It’s quite possible that the DFL’s historic investment in education shafted outstate schools to pay for increased education spending in urban and suburban school districts. It wouldn’t be the first time the DFL shafted outstate school districts. Just ask Rocori if they’ve gotten fair treatment. (Hint: they haven’t.)

This fall, the DFL insisted that it didn’t shortchange rural Minnesota. The DFL insisted that they’d paid off the school shifts while increasing education funding. The DFL insisted that they’d raised taxes on “the rich” so they could cut property taxes for the middle class. The article in the Princeton newspaper is proof that a) the DFL still shortchanged rural Minnesota, b) the DFL’s tax-the-rich policy didn’t lead to middle class property tax relief and c) the DFL’s supposedly historic investment in education is more campaign rhetoric than reality.

Finally and most importantly, the DFL’s spending spree didn’t shrink the achievement gap nor did the DFL increase accountability in education. The DFL eliminated the requirement that teachers pass a basic skills test that the GOP first passed.

Rep. Thissen said that the DFL legislature should be called the education legislature. I’ve got a better idea. Let’s call them the ‘they shafted us again legislature.’ After all, the DFL’s spending did nothing to improve educational outcomes.

Where’s the Financial Audit for FY14?
by Silence Dogood

Fiscal year 2014 ended June 30, 2014. It takes some time to reconcile the books for the year and perform an audit. The website for the Office of Finance and Administration contains Annual Reports for several previous years.

For those who have access to SCSU’s Sharepoint website, you can access Annual Reports all the way back to FY 2002.

The MnSCU Audit Committee met on November 18th, 2014 to review and approve the release of 2014 audited financial statements as required by Board Policy.

From the Audit Committee Agenda:

From the agenda, it is clear that the audited financial report for SCSU was scheduled to be taken up by the Audit Committee. From the Audit Committee document, it further states:

The week of November 24th, 2014, the audited financial statement for SCSU (i.e. the Annual Report FY 2014), became available to the public. As of December 19th, 2014, nearly four weeks later, the audited financial statement for SCSU is not available on the website for the Office of Finance and Administration. It has also not been forwarded by the Administration to the SCSU Faculty Association. Hopefully, the Annual Report FY 2014 will appear on the agenda for the Meet and Confer scheduled for January 15th, 2015.

Unfortunately, this is yet just another example of a lack of sharing of information by the SCSU administration. However, after glancing at the audit report, it is quite understandable why they don’t want to have it discussed. Here is the link to the audit report for those that can’t wait for SCSU’s administration to post it:
www.finance.mnscu.edu/accounting/financialstatements/yearendstatements/docs/2014scsu.pdf

It’s a sixty-page document, which is a real page-turner—NOT!

The Composite Financial Index—Where’s FY14?
by Silence Dogood

On the MnSCU system website, you can find a table showing the Composite Financial Index for all of the MnSCU institutions. A portion of the document showing the MnSCU universities is shown here:

From the MnSCU website you can also find the definition of the Composite Financial Index (CFI) and the four component measures that make it up:

To know about as much as you probably need to know—higher is better.

The first figure above lists FY13 as the last entry in the table. FY14 ended June 30, 2014 so more than five and one-half months into FY15, the results for the CFI for FY14 are not available. If this information was ever meant to be used to help make decisions, clearly timeliness is important! Nearly half a year into the next fiscal year is not timely! About the only use for information, which comes so late, is for historical purposes! Perhaps MnSCU is taking lessons on openness and transparency from SCSU.

A wise person once told me:

“Bad news can wait.”

So, we are left to wonder just how bad is the bad news! At the Budget Town Hall Meeting on November 13th, 2014, we got a hint when Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy McGee stated that SCSU’s CFI was 0.07.

Inserting the value for FY14, a plot of the CFI for SCSU is shown in the figure below:

In looking at the plot, one might wonder what contributed to making the CFI value for FY12 so large? When we dig into the data a bit further, it is easy to see that FY12 is anomalously large because SCSU was building ISELF (the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility), which was the largest bonded project in MnSCU’s history. As a result, the CFI for FY12 was grossly inflated because of the infusion of nearly $45,000,000. In other words, in FY12, SCSU’s financial health was really not as good as it appeared. Especially, when it came as enrollment was declining significantly, it hid the magnitude of the effect of the enrollment decline.

A closer look at the table for the CFI for the various MnSCU universities shows that only Southwest has a CFI less than 1.00—that is until SCSU posts its 0.07 for FY14. At that time, SCSU may have the lowest CFI at a university in MnSCU by a wide margin!

It is also interesting to note that Minnesota State University, Moorhead, which has significantly higher CFI numbers than SCSU (except for FY12, when the ISELF funding inflated the value), suffered a 9.5% enrollment decline from FY11 to FY13, which led to budget reduction amounting to 10% of faculty and staff including retrenchments. It also led to the “early retirement” of MSUM’s President. So maybe the CFI is not as useful predictor of the economic health of a university as previously thought. One can only hope because from FY10 through FY14, SCSU has had an 18.0% FYE enrollment decline. Adding another 5% drop for FY15, SCSU’s enrollment will have dropped an unprecedented 22.1% in five years.

Coupled with a $9,542,000 budget shortfall for FY15, it is clear that the university is in store for some serious changes. Coming only four years after the university was ‘reorganized’ can only mean that the reorganization was not as successful as President Potter continues to say that it was.

“Open” And “Transparent” Need To Be More Than Just Words
by Silence Dogood

Most Deans regularly meet with Department Chairs and Program Directors within their school or college to pass on information from the administration. In some cases, these meetings are called “Dean’s Advisory Councils” or DACs. However, these meetings are not intended to replace Meet and Confer meetings between the Administration and the Faculty Association, which are contractually described in the “Master Agreement” between the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees and the Inter Faculty Organization.

On November 5th, 2014, Dean Mark Springer held his weekly DAC meeting with the Department Chairs/Program Directors of the College of Liberal Arts and the School of the Arts. Two budget documents were shared at this meeting. A portion of the ‘notes’ from the meeting is reproduced below.

The second spreadsheet, which was reportedly produced by Academic Affairs, is reproduced below:

The date on the top of the form is 10/16/14. This document shows where the administration is planning to make some of the cuts to the budget for each of the schools and colleges to respond to the $9,542,000 budget shortfall for FY15.

This document came to light when the notes and handouts for the November 5th, 2014 DAC meeting were emailed to faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and the School of the Arts on December 10th, 2014. The first question is why should it take five weeks to get this information out to the faculty. It is important to note that there were several DAC meetings in the meantime so one has to wonder why the delay?

However, the second and more important question is why was this information was not shared by the administration at Meet and Confer or a Budget Advisory Group Meeting? Why, instead, was it shared at a DAC meeting? There was a Meet and Confer on October 30th, 2014 and Budget Advisory Group Meeting on November 13th, 2014. There was even a Budget Town Hall meeting on November 20th, 2014. As a side note, the slides from the Budget Town Hall meeting are still not available on the SharePoint website as promised during the meeting.

The Meet and Confer scheduled for November 20th, 2014 was cancelled because of the lack of items for the agenda. So there have been multiple opportunities for the administration to share their ideas about how to deal with the budget shortfall. Unfortunately, most faculty have had to find out about these cuts from a DAC meeting and not via the appropriate way to share this important information, which is through Meet and Confer. Sharing this information is not just a good idea, it is, in fact, required by the Master Agreement because the Faculty Association has the contractual right to respond before the Administration acts on matters like budget cuts. Unfortunately, responding becomes something of a moot point when you hear about it more than five weeks after the fact and the decisions have already been implemented.

Last November, SCSU participated in a Trust Index Survey conducted by the Great Place to Work Institute. Suffice it to say that the results for the senior administration were not outstanding, to say the least. The results of two of the questions are shown below. The blue bar represents the score of those taking the survey and the red bar represents an average of the “100 Best Places to Work.”

The second question does not have a comparison because it was a question that was generated locally. The results demonstrate “management” does a poor job of informing the “company” and management does a poor job of sharing information openly and transparently.

Clearly, what was found to be true a year ago seems to still be true today. This is also despite a year of “listening sessions” and working group meetings. The administration still seems to give lip service to the concepts of being “Open” and “Transparent.” Unfortunately, their lip service does not seem to translate into action.

A wise person once told me:

Summer School Redux
by Silence Dogood

On December 9, 2014, President Potter sent an email to all faculty and staff entitled “Managing our budget.” Here’s what President Potter said in his email:

Let’s look at the fourth bullet point in more detail. The following figure shows the FYE enrollment from Summer’06 through Summer’14:

Clearly, since Summer’10, the enrollment has been what can only be described as a ‘freefall.’ From Summer’10 through Summer’14, the drop of 409 FYE represents a decline of 30.9%. This fall, the enrollment at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire fell 1.5% and the administration has been holding meetings to try to understand why there was a decline AND what can be done to reverse the drop and prevent it from becoming a ‘trend.’

Summer school operates differently than the regular academic year. It may be hard to understand but despite a drop of 9.0% in FY12, and an 11.4% drop in FY13, the university actually made more money than in each of the previous summers. This can be accomplished simply by increasing class sizes and hiring lower cost faculty, both of which raise the profitability of a course. However, at some point, the declines in enrollment do translate into decreased revenue.

It is also interesting to look at the summer enrollments at the other MnSCU universities. The following figure shows FYE enrollments at all of the MnSCU universities from Summer’06 through Summer’14.

From the figure, it is clear that the three MnSCU universities with the largest summer enrollments (SCSU, Winona, and Mankato) all experienced declines in enrollment for Summer’14. The four universities with the smallest summer enrollments (Winona, Moorhead, Bemidji, and Southwest) all experienced increases in enrollment for Summer’14.

It is also clear from the Figure that SCSU was once the leader in summer enrollments by a wide margin and has now dropped to third. If the trend is extended, it won’t be too long before SCSU slips to fourth behind Winona, whose rate of growth is increasing.

The drop in summer enrollment at SCSU didn’t happen in one year, it took four years to drop 30.9%. However, it shouldn’t have taken four years to figure out that something was going wrong with the enrollment in summer school. After dropping 9.0% in Summer’11, alarm bells should have been going off in the administration building. For Summer’11, SCSU was the only MnSCU university with a decline in summer enrollment!

For Summer’12, SCSU’s decline increased to 11.4%. However, Summer’12 SCSU was not alone in declining. Moorhead led the way with a one-year decline of 17.9%! Bemidji lost 7.6%, Southwest lost 6.8%, Mankato and Winona both lost 3.3%. However, Metro was nearly flat losing only 0.2%.

Unfortunately, the SCSU administration was either unaware of the declines in the summer enrollment for 2011 and 2012 or didn’t know what to do because enrollment again dropped 5.4% for Summer’13. Although a decline, the rate of decline was half of the previous year. This in itself might have been considered a small ‘victory.’ Perhaps the administration thought the problem with declining enrollment was taking care of itself. Unfortunately, for Summer’14 the enrollment decline nearly doubled in increasing to 9.4%.

Now, after a four-year period in which enrollment has dropped 30.9%, the President announces that he’s “taking steps to revitalize our summer school enrollment.” The question that needs to be answered: Why did it take so long for President Potter to figure out there was a problem in the first place?

“Managing Our Budget”
by Silence Dogood

On December 9, 2014, President Potter sent an email to all faculty and staff entitled “Managing our budget.” Here’s what President Potter said in that email:

This is not the first time President Potter has invoked “demographics” to explain the enrollment decline at SCSU. The first question to be answered is whether or not the assertion about demographics as the cause of the enrollment decline is credible. The following figure shows the FYE enrollments from FY03 through FY14 plus each university’s projected enrollments for FY15, FY16 and FY17:

Unfortunately, in looking at the data for MnSCU enrollments at the seven state universities, President Potter has to come up with an explanation as to why the “changing demographics” has led to increases or at least stable enrollments at five of the seven state universities. Only Moorhead and SCSU show significant declines. Clearly, President Potter wants to find something to blame for SCSU’s enrollment decline. Otherwise, he might have to accept responsibility for SCSU’s enrollment decline.

After a 12.1% decline in enrollment from FY11 through FY14, the President at Moorhead was ‘encouraged’ to retire. Over the same time period, the enrollment at SCSU declined 17.3%. It is interesting to note that during this time period when enrollment was declining 6.9% in FY12, 6.4% in FY13 and 5.1% in FY14, President Potter received “Exceptional Performance Pay” for FY12 of $12,000 and for FY13 of $13,000. One is only left to imagine how much the enrollment at SCSU would have declined had he not been so ‘exceptional.’

The second part of President Potter’s statement cites declining enrollments “across Minnesota and the region.” In September, the Eau Claire Leader Telegram published an article on September 27th, 2014 stating that enrollment at University of Wisconsin—River Falls was within twenty students of having the same enrollment from the prior year and that the University of Wisconsin—Stout was within eight students of setting a new record enrollment.

Looking at the Wisconsin university system, enrollment data released in September shows the comprehensive universities, which are the most like the MnSCU universities are actually up in enrollment by 1.6%. Over the time period FY11 through FY14, the worst performing university is UW-Parkside with a decline in enrollment of 10.5%. Compare this with SCSU’s decline of 17.3% over the same period of time and a decline of ‘only’ 10.5% starts looking pretty good. It is also important to note that two universities are up over 7% and one is up nearly 13%! This certainly does not look like declines due to demographics, as President Potter says, “across Minnesota and the region.”

Are some universities in Minnesota and the region experiencing an enrollment decline? The answer is yes. However, because many universities are increasing their enrollments, it is clear that rather than simply acknowledge that there has been a recent decline in students graduating from high school, they decided to do something proactively rather than just accept their supposed fate that enrollment is going to go down.

Compare this to the situation at SCSU. President Potter, at first, didn’t even acknowledge that the enrollment was going down. When that no longer worked, he began saying that he’s ‘right sizing’ the university. Unfortunately, without an enrollment management plan, everyone just had to take his word for it. However, we must have overshot President Potter’s ‘right size’ because he now states:

For FY12 FYE enrollment dropped 6.9%, for FY13 FYE enrollment dropped 6.3%, for FY14 FYE enrollment dropped 5.1%, and for FY15 FYE enrollment is on the way to being down over 5% again. Now that the administration has finally recognized the enrollment drop over a four-year period is over 21%, the administration has announced “initiatives to increase enrollment.”

The enrollment decline also has significant financial consequences. More than a week after opening convocation ceremonies last August, President Potter announced that for FY15 there was budget shortfall of $9,542,000. In his December 9th email, President Potter announced “a number of activities to manage our FY15 budget.”

Finally, President Potter has decided to convene a “steering group” to “identify opportunities for cost reductions.” This is ‘administrative speak’ for cuts.

Clearly, SCSU is an outlier among the MnSCU universities—and not in a good way! While cuts may be necessary because of the current financial situation, one must ask what led to the current financial situation. If we don’t understand what led us to the position we currently find ourselves, as George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Five years ago, under the guise of reorganization, the administration cut $14,500,000 from the budget (we now know that perhaps only $2,500,000 needed to be cut). Unfortunately, now only five years later, the situation is repeating itself. In this case, only $9,542,000 needs to be cut so that might be considered ‘progress.’ However, since the administration failed to learn from the past and take corrective action, it appears that SCSU is condemned to repeat it.

This Our View editorial in the Times isn’t surprising considering their disgust with conviction politicians. It isn’t surprising that the Times is running interference for St. Cloud State again.

Councilman Johnson’s understanding of the airline industry has caused him to ask a number of pointed questions about daily flight service to Chicago. Being an expert on that issue isn’t a liability, though the Times apparently think it’s a liability. It’s a strength. Councilman Johnson isn’t afraid to ask tough questions while the Times and other politicians try sweeping things under the rug.

Further, it’s beyond galling to see the Times write about conflicts of interest, especially with regards to St. Cloud State. The Times has played multiple roles in its relationship with St. Cloud State and President Potter. They’ve been SCSU’s PR agency. They’ve been Potter’s stenographer, too. Unfortunately, the thing they haven’t been are unbiased reporters of fact.

If you weren’t reading LFR, you likely don’t know that SCSU has hidden, with the Times’ help, the fact that administrators have erased students’ participation in classes from the University’s official transcripts. If you haven’t read LFR, you certainly wouldn’t know that St. Cloud State’s tuition revenues have dropped dramatically thanks to a precipitous drop in enrollment. One Times article even said that enrollment for a semester was only down 1.3%, which is technically accurate if you’re going by headcount enrollment.

Had the Times reported that FYE enrollment, which is the only enrollment that’s predictive of tuition revenues, that semester was down close to 5%, they might’ve seen this year’s $9,542,000 budget deficit. Unfortunately, they didn’t report it, then were surprised when President Potter was forced to announce that SCSU’s operating deficit for FY2015 will be at least $9,542,000. It’s still possible, unfortunately, that it might reach higher.

If you haven’t read LFR, you wouldn’t know that President Potter’s trust rating with the faculty was terrible. The best that the Times has done is admit that there’s a problem and that both sides need to work together to solve the problem. The Times hasn’t said anything critical of President Potter with respect to the Great Place to Work Institute’s Trust Index Survey. When the Institute asked if the administration didn’t play politics, only 17% of faculty agreed with that statement.

Not surprisingly, the Times didn’t report that. Instead, they talked about the need for both sides to work together.

LFR is calling on the Times to abandon their SCSU cheerleader uniforms and to become a serious news organization. Their unwavering support for President Potter, frankly, is disgusting. If they won’t stop being President Potter’s off-campus PR firm, then people shouldn’t take their Our View editorials seriously.

Thanks to Darrell Downs’ article, we finally have a platform from which we should talk about Chancellor Rosenstone’s Charting the Future initiative. I hope that the first part of this series furthers that conversation. This paragraph from Downs’ article is worthy of examination:

Students, faculty, staff and taxpayers deserve an honest and open conversation about change. This conversation could start by recognizing that even good ideas can come at an untenable price. No public funds have been appropriated for systemwide planning, so isn’t it reasonable to know what is being sacrificed by pursuing new directions? When sacrifice gets down to the campus level, it could mean fewer programs, fewer majors and minor degree options and fewer options for students; ultimately it means less freedom to serve our students.

If that first sentence is the most important consideration in implementing a major change, and it should be, then Chancellor Rosenstone failed miserably. If we agree that everyone that’s potentially affected by these changes should have meaningful input into the changes, which should be imperative, then Chancellor Rosenstone failed when he kept CtF’s blueprint a secret and when he hid McKinsey’s contract.

If CtF truly is innovative, what expertise could McKinsey bring to the equation? If CtF is groundbreaking in nature, then we’re writing chapters in a totally new book. Personally, I’m skeptical that CtF is a groundbreaking reform initiative. That’s because Chancellor Rosenstone isn’t an outside-the-box thinker. He’s worked too long in the public sector to have fresh insights into systemic problems that he’s presided over.

Further, he’s still trying to win the debate that his presidents are highly qualified. That ship sailed a year or more ago. The presidents at Moorhead and Metro were fired. The presidents at St. Cloud State and Mankato should’ve gotten fired. President Davenport should’ve gotten fired for his foolish decision to fire Coach Hoffner. President Potter should’ve gotten fired for signing a terrible lease with the J.A. Wedum Foundation that SCSU is losing an average of $1,300,000 per year on, for losing tens of millions of dollars on tuition revenues due to dramatically declining enrollments and for intimidating students.

Further, MnSCU is notorious for not seeking public input. They certainly didn’t require public input into dropping SCSU’s aviation program. That was shoved down the faculty’s and the students’ throats without meaningful public input. (Detecting a pattern here?)

Meaningful change also happens on campus. Campus faculty and staff are continually redirecting their scarce resources to meet the needs of students. Academic programs are changed and new courses are created and modified through careful and frequent deliberation. New partnerships are built with businesses, governments, and non-profits, and new directions for the universities are developed on a regular basis. Rosenstone is correct in saying that change is hard, but he is wrong to imply that it’s not already happening.

MnSCU itself is an impediment to good governance. CtF will only make matters worse. During Chancellor Rosenstone’s administration, MnSCU has fought for more centralized control of the system. The best reforms come when lots of experiments are being tried. Some inevitably fail but others succeed beautifully.

The 1990s are the perfect example of that. Half a dozen governors worked on welfare reform. The welfare reform bill that Bill Clinton signed was the byproduct of experimentation by Tommy Thompson, Bill Weld and Bill Clinton while he was governor of Arkansas.

If Rosenstone were truly wise, he’d start by listening to the faculty, students and businesses. Then he’d work with faculty and students in putting together a list of key principles that reform must accomplish. Finally, he’d bring in the best and the brightest reformers to implement the reforms.

Instead, Rosenstone put a blueprint together, then hired a consulting firm to implement his top-down plan. It isn’t surprising faculty and students aren’t buying into his initiative.

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Darrell Downs’ article is must reading for the House and Senate Higher Ed committees, the MnSCU Board of Trustees, Gov. Dayton, Commissioner Pogemiller and every taxpayer whose son or daughter is attending to thinking about attending a MnSCU university. Here’s the opening of the article:

The icy standoff between campus faculty and the leadership of the Minnesota State College and Universities (MnSCU) needs to end — but let’s first get to the root of the problem.

MnSCU has been leading an experiment to change campuses into quasi-private franchises for years. Producing more degrees more quickly and more cheaply has been its hallmark. Never mind that the quality of the education may suffer when change is put in the hands of political appointees and corporate advisers.

To gild the lily of misguided privatization, MnSCU also pays for multimillion-dollar consultants, such as McKinsey and Co., to manage system planning, regardless of faculty and student objections. And it’s only a matter of time before we learn how much is being spent on consultants to “rebrand” the system.

It’s long past time for MnSCU leadership to step outside of its ivory towers. I’ve followed the higher ed reform beat for the better part of 4 years. I’ve seen documentation that verifies as fact that none of the MnSCU Trustees has ever held a townhall meeting in their congressional district. They certainly haven’t met with faculty members.

It’s foolish to think that an outside consultant is better equipped to suggest improvements and implement changes than are the people within the system. If the people that make up the system aren’t qualified for that initiative, then that’s a management failure to hire high quality administrators.

For the record, I’m positive that some of the universities’ administrators are more than qualified for putting a plan together while working with faculty and listening to students’ concerns. It’s just that Chancellor Rosenstone picked the wrong people for putting the reform package together and implementing that package.

Instead, Chancellor Rosenstone brought an adversarial attitude to the project. That attitude led to him secretly hiring McKinsey’s consultants, which spent $2,000,000 that shouldn’t have been spent. Chancellor Rosenstone decided that Charting the Future was the right initiative without meaningful input. Then he hired expensive consultants to implement his initiative.

Isn’t it a bit ironic that a reform initiative is implemented by doing what past administrators have done for decades? When the CEO of MnSCU puts the ‘reform’ package together, why should I think that he’s on the right path?

Downs is exactly right in highlighting expensive consultant-driven ‘reforms’. Nothing about that process sounds like a process that produces thoughtful, forward-looking reforms. Check back to LFR on Sunday for Part II of this series.

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Enrollment Projections
by Silence Dogood

Periodically, MnSCU requires all colleges and universities to project their enrollments going out three years. The table below shows the latest projections from October 2014 for the MnSCU Universities for FY15, FY16, and FY17. Also in the Table are the actual FY enrollments from FY03 through FY14

It’s a table with a lot of data. As it is, it doesn’t tell us much. However, as it is sometimes said: “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In this case, transforming the data in the table into a graph makes a very clear picture of what is really going on with enrollments at the MnSCU state universities.

Metropolitan (purple) is up a lot. Mankato (red) and Winona (yellow) are up. Bemidji (orange) and Southwest (blue) look pretty stable. Moorhead (green) and St. Cloud (black) are in decline. From the graph, it is clear that St. Cloud is not just in decline. Compared to the other MnSCU universities, it is more appropriately “in the toilet.” Considering the projected enrollment decline at SCSU, enrollment will drop from its high in FY10 of 15,096 FYE to 11,279 FYE in FY17, which is a drop of 3,817 FYE and corresponds to a drop of 25.3%!

Looking at Moorhead, the enrollment decline from FY03 (6,993 FYE) to the projected enrollment for FY17 (5,661 FYE) is a drop of 1,332 FYE and corresponds to a drop of 19.0%. However, the enrollment drop at Moorhead took a total of 14 years to achieve. SCSU will accomplish its’ 25.3% drop in just 7 years or perhaps earlier! As things now stand it is quite possible that SCSU’s FY15, FY16, and FY17 projections for significantly under estimate the actual decline in enrollment. The FY15 fall enrollment is well below the original projection. Based on the recent history of projections made by the SCSU administration, it is highly likely that the projected decline will reach 25% in only 6 years.

When looking at the graph, it may be heartening to think, or more correctly hope, that the rate of enrollment decline at SCSU is decreasing. However, the experience of the past three years may make these projections more wishful thinking rather than responsible estimates. In FY12 the enrollment dropped 5.9%, in FY13 the enrollment dropped 5.4%, and in FY14 the enrollment dropped 5.1%.

In March 2013, the projection for FY14 enrollment was for a decline of 2.4% so the projection significantly underestimated the actual decline. This March, the projection for FY15 enrollment was 3.2%. Already we know that summer enrollment was down 9.4% and that fall enrollment is down as of 12/3/14 5.5%. Unless a miracle occurs and spring enrollment is up substantially, enrollment for FY15 is going to be significantly down from the March projection. Even this past October, the revised projection for FY15 was for a decline of 4.5%. Again, something that is not likely to be realized except in someone’s fantasies.

If you look back to the projections this past March, the enrollment projection for FY16 was for a 2.3% decline and for FY17 a 1.3% decline. The administration revised these projections in October upwards to 3.0% and 1.7% for FY16 and FY17, respectively. Given the significant underestimation of the decline in enrollment the prior two years, it is hard to believe that the optimistic decline in the rate of decline of enrollment will be realized. More likely, the projections are going to be significantly in error—and not in a good way! Absent of hard evidence of a significant change in enrollment patterns, a 4-5% annual drop in enrollment might be more responsible instead of these “Pollyana-like” projections.

Let’s look at the big picture. The enrollment decline at SCSU from FY10 to FY17 represents a loss of 268 FYE more than the total projected enrollment at Southwest State University (3,549)! Further, if you use an estimated revenue of $11,500 per FYE, a drop of 3,817 FYE represents a loss of revenue totaling $43,900,000! Importantly, this loss will have occurred within only six or seven years!

I hope that those who keep saying that the “demographics” are the reason for the enrollment decline at SCSU can explain how only two MnSCU universities have significant declines and that SCSU is the absolute leader with a 25.3% decline and projects a decline in absolute FYE greater than Southwest State’s total enrollment. During President Potter’s tenure, SCSU has gone from leading rival Mankato by 848 FYE to trailing in FY15 by over 2,121 FYE, a staggering reversal of 2,969 FYE!

At one time, SCSU bragged about being the “flagship” university in MnSCU. Looking at the data, it is clear that this is no longer true. I guess it’s time to hire another consultant.