Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category

Last fall, I wrote this post to highlight how empty ISELF was. ISELF was so disappointing that KSTP’s Tom Hauser interviewed me about the calamity. Leah McLean wrapped up KSTP’s article by saying “Still, they are saying they are hopeful that the building will be fully operational by the spring semester or early next year.”

It’s now fall semester at SCSU. That definitely qualifies as “early next year” based on the context SCSU officials used in their interview with KSTP. It’s time to see if ISELF is fully operational and filled with students. This ISELF lab doesn’t look like it’s getting used:

Classrooms and labs aren’t always a good indicator. The ISELF STEM Cafe should be a better indicator of activity in ISELF:

That looks like the ISELF building from last year. This picture tells a disturbing story:

If you look closely at how Room 108 is being used, you’ll see it’s being used for “African Studies.” It’s clear that SCSU made a decision to fill the building up with whatever classes were willing to use the building. As is usually the case, SCSU administration means President Potter.

It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t point out that ISELF is getting some legitimate use:

When Tom Hauser interviewed Dan Gregory, Gregory said that they normally don’t have grand opening ceremonies on buildings until 3-4 months after they’ve opened. Then Gregory made this too-clever-by-half statement: In this case, we opened it strategically.

If that’s true, which I’d bet it isn’t, then Gregory’s strategy failed miserably. You can put a ton more lipstick on that white elephant but the truth is that it’s a financial albatross to Minnesota’s taxpayers.

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Who Cares about Rankings?
by Silence Dogood

The people at the top certainly do! U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of Colleges and Universities are out. There are winners and there are losers.

The rankings of the Top Public Schools (Regional Universities—Midwest) listing Minnesota schools is shown in the following table.

Out of the 39 schools ranked, five of the seven MnSCU universities are listed. SCSU finished behind Winona State University and Minnesota State University—Mankato and is tied with Bemidji State University for 33rd out of 39. Perhaps this is a big move up in the rankings for SCSU and everyone should be proud. If so, there will probably be a news release announcing the move up. Most likely, however, it will fail to mention that SCSU is tied for third with Bemidji and behind both Winona and Mankato. Even less likely is a press release if SCSU’s ranking fell from 2014 to 2015.

As I said, those at the top care. Winona State University already has a press release announcing that they are the second highest ranked university in Minnesota and the highest ranked university in MnSCU.

Do rankings matter? Apparently they do since both Winona State and Mankato have larger numbers of new entering freshmen than does SCSU. Perhaps SCSU should hire another consultant to tell them how to improve their ranking. Just kidding. President Potter, we still need to pay for the loss on the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments.

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Who Would Have Thought of Winona as a Competitor to SCSU?
by Silence Dogood

The 10th day enrollments are in and while the overall enrollment may change due to the numbers of Senior to Sophomore (S2S) students still to be registered, the number of New Entering Freshman (NEF) is pretty much their final number. The NEF headcount enrollments for SCSU from Fall’07 to Fall’14 are shown in the following figure:

The data for Fall’07 through Fall’13 comes from the website for the Office of Strategy, Planning and Effectiveness. The data for Fall’14 is current as of the tenth day of the semester.

The figure shows an essentially a constant level of NEF from Fall’07 to Fall’09, which is then followed by a nearly stepwise decline. While some might like to say that it looks like the rate of decline is decreasing, over the time period from Fall’08 to Fall’14, NEF enrollment has dropped by 721 students and represents a drop of 30.0%!

Concomitantly, full-year FYE enrollments at SCSU have also been declining. The following figure shows the FYE enrollment from FY08 through FY14.

From its peak in FY10, the data shows FYE enrollment has fallen by 2,691 FYE corresponding to a decline of 17.8%. This data does not show enrollments for FY15.

The data for FY15 will not be finalized until some time late next spring. However, last March, the administration said they were projecting a 3.2% drop in enrollment for FY15. The enrollment for summer is in and it was down by 9.4% (one set of data shows a decline of 10.2%). The administration has also since revised their enrollment projection to a drop of between 4-5%. So if we assume an enrollment decline of 4.5% (the midpoint of their new projection), we obtain the following figure.

This Figure shows from its peak in FY10, if the administration’s enrollment projection is correct and there is a 4.5% drop in enrollment for FY15, the FYE enrollment will have fallen by 3,249 FYE corresponding to a decline of 21.5%!

Of course it’s easy to say it’s the demographics resulting from the decline in the number of high school graduates that is causing the decline in enrollment. This might be a valid explanation if all or even most of the MnSCU universities were experiencing the same declines. However, the problem is that not all universities are experiencing the same enrollment trends. The enrollment data for Minnesota State University—Mankato, the university closest in size to SCSU and Winona State University, the next largest university in size after SCSU, as well as SCSU, are shown together in the following figure:

Although the data labels may be hard to read because of the overlap, the enrollment trends of Mankato and Winona are clearly very different than that of SCSU. Stable or slightly growing enrollment at Mankato and Winona and significant decline at SCSU. Just looking at the time period from FY13 to FY14, Winona is down 1.8%, Mankato is up 0.2%, and SCSU is down 5.0%. These are significantly different trends!

If you start to look deeper at the data, it gets even more discouraging for SCSU. The following table shows the NEF enrollments of SCSU and Winona from Fall’08 through Fall’14.

Clearly, the figure shows the trends are very different for SCSU and Winona. NEF enrollment at Winona is only down two students from Fall’13 through Fall’14 (1,650 vs. 1,648—a drop of 0.1%), while SCSU’s NEF enrollment continues its downward trend losing 23 students (1,703 vs 1,680—a drop of 1.4%). A comparison of the one-year rate of decline shows SCSU is down 11 times more than Winona. Looking back to Fall’08 SCSU’s NEF enrollment is down 721 students or 30.0%. For the same time period, Winona’s NEF enrollment is down 229 students or 12.2%. For this time period the comparison shows shows SCSU is down 2.5 times more than Winona. While you might argue that the decline may have bottomed out for Winona, the same cannot be said for SCSU. Clearly, the difference in the enrollment statistics between SCSU and Winona is enormous and going in the wrong direction (for SCSU)!

Furthermore, the Minnesota Department of Education has the following graphic (from Minnesota Measures 2014—Report on Higher Education Performance):

This graphic indicates that SCSU has not only fallen far behind rival Minnesota State University—Mankato in attracting Minnesota High School graduates, SCSU is now behind the University of Minnesota Duluth. This data was for Fall’12 so with two additional years of significant decline for SCSU and small growth for Winona State University, it is not far fetched to expect that Winona may soon not only catch but pass SCSU as the ‘top choice’ for Minnesota High School graduates attending college in Minnesota. In fact, for this year, Winona has closed the gap in NEF to SCSU to only 32 students. In the Fall’10, SCSU had 682 more NEF than Winona!

SCSU is substantially larger than Winona because of a larger number of transfer students and graduate students. Additionally, SCSU is larger because of nearly 3,500 high school students in S2S programs. Winona does not participate in S2S.

Another factoid, Winona State University on their website lists Fall’12 to Fall’13 NEF retention at 78%. While SCSU’s retention data has not been made public in recent years, the retention rate for NEF students at SCSU historically has been nearly 10% lower than Winona.

So, not only is SCSU falling in the ranking as the top choice of Minnesota High School graduates, those that do attend don’t seem to stick around. If you keep attracting fewer and fewer students and keep losing higher and higher percentages of those that do come, pretty soon you’ll have a real enrollment problem. Wait! Just what is a decline of 21.5% over five years? President Potter calls it ‘right’ sizing.

Dave DeLand’s article about the 1988 Homecoming weekend at St. Cloud State is worthwhile reading because it exposes the warped thinking of SCSU’s top administrators.

First, here’s a little information about the 1988 Homecoming weekend:

The scenario subsequently got out of hand. An estimated 1,500 people — some of them St. Cloud State students, some not — were involved in a situation that included tear gas, flying bottles, burning furniture and minor injuries.

The following night, 150 police and State Patrol officers — some in full riot gear — turned out to break up another sofa-burning crowd.

A few observations on all this:

No. 1, the sofas in most college houses probably should be set on fire.

No. 2, it was never really a “riot,” even though some of the trappings were there. That word remains a sore subject at St. Cloud State.

No. 3, SCSU has subsequently been sensitive about changing its perceived “party school” culture, and that sensitivity is often perceived as a lockdown mentality.

There’s no question that things got badly out of hand that weekend. That weekend, St. Cloud State made the national news shows and not in a positive light. After that, St. Cloud’s City Council instituted some ordinances aimed at restraining off-campus wild all-night parties.

The new ordinances worked.

That wasn’t good enough for President Potter, though:

“We’re going for something different than homecoming,” Potter said. “People would come back to St. Cloud to drink. They wouldn’t even set foot on campus. Homecoming, frankly, had become a perversion of what it should be. I would not go back to homecoming to go back to that.”

That change happened in 2011, 23 years after the 1988 Homecoming disaster. Instead of Homecoming weekends, when the city’s ‘population’ doubled (at least) and the bars did a booming business, SCSU now has 4 weekends called Celebrate!

“What we’re trying to do with the fall Celebrate! is that the alumni office takes the lead trying to encourage as many alumni as possible to come back to campus,” said John Brown, SCSU’s associate director of alumni and constituent engagement.

President Potter’s decision to shut down Homecoming weekend happened 23 years after the event that gave Homecoming a bad reputation. Had the SCSU president announced in November, 1998, that Homecoming had to stop, people probably would’ve given that president the benefit of the doubt.

Stopping it 23 years after the fact makes no sense whatsoever. President Potter isn’t getting the benefit of the doubt:

Whatever it’s called, though, Celebrate! doesn’t resonate downtown to nearly the extent of homecoming.

“Then they whine, ‘How do we get students to attend games?’ or ‘How do we get alumni to come back?'” Burns said. “It just really seems like some of the decisions are sort of a knee-jerk reaction,” Barth said, “just trying to penalize some of the downtown bars.”

Here’s President Potter’s lame explanation:

Potter said the switch from homecoming to Celebrate! was needed to help change a campus culture of binge drinking.

“We’re not talking about prettying up our reputation,” he said. “We’re talking about substantive change in the climate of the university. St. Cloud is not the party school it was. It’s not the place you go to when you can’t get in anywhere else. That’s worth celebrating. That should be the focus.”

What’s happened is that SCSU alumni got utterly disinterested in SCSU. Further, St. Cloud State went from being a party school to a school that’s ignored. President Potter’s decision didn’t cause SCSU’s enrollment declines. Still, it’s foolish to tihnk that President Potter’s decision didn’t sour relations with the University’s alumni.

It’s difficult to regain the alumni’s trust once you’ve alienated them. It’s impossible to regain their trust if you think you’ve done the right thing.

When President Potter is just a bad memory, let’s hope the new president restarts Homecoming. That’d truly be a reason to Celebrate!

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Dick Andzenge’s monthly column was valuable in that it caused me to rethink what drives a university’s enrollment. Here’s what got me thinking this through:

To some students, the location, cost and availability of desired programs are primary reasons for choosing universities. Any change in these three can affect their decisions. To some students, the reputation of particular programs or university is the major determining factor.

Simply drifting through the university without learning does not build the university’s reputation. If institutional reputation is that important in recruitment and retention, then those of us who work for the university are the institutions’ ambassadors.

While each of those things are legitimate and important considerations, there’s more to it than that. For instance, if campus morale is low, both with the faculty and with students, there’s no question that morale will have a negative impact on enrollment. To that point, there’s no question that on-campus morale is low. The Great Place to Work Institute’s Trust Index Survey yielded told us that:

Only 26% of survey respondents agreed that “We’re all in this togther.” What’s worse is that only 21% of survey respondents agreed that there’s a “family or team feeling” at St. Cloud State.

Professors and staff whose morale is low won’t recommend St. Cloud State to their neighbors or their family. While it’s impossible to specifically quantify how much that affects St. Cloud State enrollment, there can’t be any doubt that it’s having a negative impact.

Why would anyone want to enroll at a university that’s run by president whose policies are more ad hoc than they are well thought through policies?

The Great Place to Work Institute Trust Index Survey blindsided President Potter. Multiple people in the room described President Potter’s facial expression as being stone-faced and filled with disbelief. That’s what happens when a president lives in a bubble, insulated from the realities of his decisions.

There’s no question that word’s gotten out that President Potter hasn’t always exhibited the type of poise you’d expect from a university president. I wrote about one of President Potter’s temper tantrums in this post. That type of outburst isn’t the type of thing that’ll tell potential students that SCSU is the place they’d like to enroll at.

Another factor that can’t help but impact St. Cloud State’s enrollment is the reputation of the various programs. Right now, St. Cloud State’s academic reputation isn’t exactly soaring. When SCSU spends more than $400,000 on rebranding the University, that’s an indication it isn’t doing well.

When the University spends more than $400,000 on rebranding and all it gets is “Think. Do. Make a difference.” for a slogan, people naturally find it difficult to take that institute of higher learning seriously.

There’s nothing in St. Cloud State’s advertising that makes them stand out. There’s nothing in word-of-mouth advertising that’s telling potential students that SCSU is a great place to learn career skills.

If President Potter’s leadership, decisionmaking and attitude don’t change, the downward cycle SCSU’s in will continue until he retires or he’s fired. The minute he leaves and is replaced by someone who’s a real leader with a coherent plan, SCSU will return to being a university of choice.

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Are 5% Budget Cuts Fair?
by Silence Dogood

The FYE enrollment at SCSU has declined from FY10 to FY14 by 17.8%. The administration has also projected a 4-5% decline for FY15. As a result of enrollment declines, the administration has finally acted. As a result of enrollment declines, the administration has finally acted and last week has taken back 5% across the board from department’s budgets. One might say that it’s great that the administration has finally decided to do something to plug the $8,000,000 – $10,000,000 shortfall they say now exists. Others might ask why it’s taken so long to act and that across the board cuts are inherently unfair.

The following figure shows FYE production by school/college from FY12 through FY14 (The data was provided by the administration). The abbreviations are School of Education (SOE), College of Liberal Arts (CLA), College of Science and Engineering (COSE), School of Public Administration (SOPA), School of Health and Human Services (SSHS), and Herberger Business School (HBS).

Clearly, not all schools/colleges have declined by the same amount. Only COSE shows an increase in FYE from FY13 to FY14. Using FY12 as the baseline, the following figure shows the percentage change in FYE production for FY14 for each of the colleges/schools.

While it is clear that all of the schools/colleges are down, it is also very clear that the enrollment decline has hit some schools/colleges much harder than others. From FY12 through FY14, FYE enrollment declined 11.0%. As a result, some schools/colleges improved their position relative to the others during this decline while others have lost ground.

Even though the percent decline is nearly four times greater for the School of Education than the College of Science and Engineering, President Potter’s solution is to cut 5% across the board. While we normally like to think it is fair to treat everyone the same, sometimes treating everyone the same is patently unfair when you know that everyone is not the same.

Cutting budgets unilaterally does not take into account the differences in performance. Both CLA and SSHS have dropped by approximately the same percentage as that experienced by the university. SOE and SOPA have dropped by nearly twice the percentage as that experienced by the university (let’s call them the losers). COSE and HBS have declined significantly less than that experienced by the university (let’s call them the winners). In life there are always winners and losers. However, in this case, by cutting unilaterally, it doesn’t make a difference if you have been a winner or a loser.

As a result, cutting unilaterally will hurt the very schools/colleges that have been successful during this most recent period of enrollment decline. If you are drowning, you probably aren’t too concerned about fairness so unilateral cuts may be the expedient thing to do as well as the simple thing to do. But it may also certainly not the smartest thing to do.

If you spend any time looking at SCSU’s budget, the vast majority of the budget is already committed to salaries and other expenses (such as debt service, electricity, etc…) that cannot easily be cut. Salaries for faculty and staff make up the largest percentage of the budget. Eliminating tenured faculty is typically not an easy or a quick thing to do. Administrators and staff have contracts that can be terminated with appropriate notification. In the case of administrators, 90 days notification is all that is necessary. Adjuncts, fixed-terms, overload and reassigned time are easier targets. Unfortunately, the adjuncts and fixed-term faculty are some of the lowest cost faculty and at the same time generate very large numbers of credits. In some cases, eliminating these people is not sound academic or fiscal policy.

The most unfortunate part of this situation is that, for the past few years, President Potter denied that a problem even existed! By not recognizing the problem early enough, drastic measures will need to be taken. Now that the problem of declining can no longer be ignored, President Potter has decided to take the easy way out. Knowing how things have been going the past few years, this is hardly unexpected.

Dorm Occupancy in a Time of Declining Enrollments
by Silence Dogood

At multiple meetings, Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy McGee has stated that the reason for the declining residence hall occupancy rate is that “SCSU is not providing the type of accommodations desired by students.” Her argument sounds reasonable but does it stand up to close inspection?

From the Residential Life webpage:

According to the webpage, there are “a little more than 3500 students living on-campus.” Additionally on the Residential Life webpage, each of the residence halls has a link that provides additional information and the capacity of each of the ten residence halls.

The capacity of each residence hall (taken from the Residential Life webpage for each of the residence halls) is listed in the following table:

The sum of the capacities equals 3,369, which isn’t “a little more than 3500 students” as indicated on the website. The difference amounts to a difference of 129 students and represents an error of at least 3.7%. This might seem like a minor point, but it should not be too hard to determine the capacity of each of the residence halls and determine the total capacity.

However, this is only a part of the story. Last fall, the Residential Life website listed the following capacities of the residence halls.

So it is now understandable how one could come up with the statement “a little more than 3500 students” since it shows a capacity of 3,567. For FY’14, only Shoemaker hall was closed for renovations and perhaps the capacity was reduced in the remodeling. If you have an empty two-person room and you ‘change’ the capacity to one person, you have simultaneously reduced your capacity and increased your percentage occupancy by the stroke of a pen. As a result, if you can change the capacity of the residence halls, occupancy rates really mean nothing. As a result, we need to talk about the numbers of students living in the residence halls rather than the occupancy rate.

In the fall of 2009, the year before Coborn’s Plaza Apartments opened, residence hall occupancy on campus was 96% (according to Dan Pederson, Director of Residential Life). If you subtract the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments from the total capacity you have a total capacity of 3,114. If there was 96% occupancy, this would mean there were 2,989 students living in the residence halls. Unless the percentage of students wanting to live in the residence halls increased in the Fall of 2010, the net effect of adding Coborn’s Plaza Apartments to the dorm capacity would be to lower the occupancy rate from 96% to 84%.

It seems as if the whole idea behind building Coborn’s Plaza Apartments was “if we build it, they will come.” Yet no data was ever provided to show that the 43% occupancy of Coborn’s Plaza Apartments in the first year of occupancy (FY11) was due to new students. In fact, one of the major selling points for Coborn’s Plaza was that it was intended for upper-level students. That certainly went by the wayside with the low occupancy level during the first year and now first-year students as well as students from St. Cloud Technical and Community College now reside there.

From FY11 to FY14, SCSU’s FYE enrollment has fallen by 17.2%. Again, assuming the same percentage of students wanted to live in the residence halls, the enrollment decline would reduce the residence hall occupancy to 67%. However, the story doesn’t end here. With the explosive growth in the S2S program, over 3,300 of the students counted as being enrolled at SCSU, approximately 20% of the headcount enrollment, are actually in high school and living at home. As a result, the decline in SCSU’s pool of potential residents for the residence halls would reduce the occupancy rate to less than 60% if interest in resident hall living remained constant.

Dan Pederson and his staff have done a marvelous job of selling the residence halls on campus and keeping the occupancy in the vicinity of 70% during this time of declining enrollment and shifts in student body composition to include large numbers of high school students. Let’s hope the increase in occupancy rate is not due to playing games with the capacity numbers by artificially reducing capacity.

Unfortunately, at a 70% occupancy rate, there is room for over 1,000 students in the residence halls. A total of 779 empty spaces are accounted for in two dorms (Stearns and Holes) that are being mothballed. Additionally, there are approximately 100 empty spaces in the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments as well as empty spaces in the other seven residence halls.

From the Residential Life website, we find the following:

“Living on campus is a great value. It’s easy to budget when you know exactly what your expenses will be. In the halls, there are no hookup charges for cable TV. There are no deposits or hidden costs. Meals are included, as well as some extra money on your ID card for late night snacks! Our residence hall costs are well below the national average, making them very affordable for students. The full academic year costs for room and board are approximately $7236. This includes everything (food, utilities, expanded basic cable TV, ResLife Cinema movie channel, on-line computer access, etc.).”

Assuming that the data is accurate, 1,000 fewer students who could live in the residence halls represents the loss $7,236,000 in room and board revenue. On August 6, 2014, an SCSU press release listed the cost of tuition at MnSCU universities as $7,340. Thus 1,000 students represent a loss of $7,340,000 in lost tuition. Combined, the 1,000 ‘lost’ students cost SCSU a total of $14,576,000 in revenue this year!

Clearly, all of the $14,576,000 would not be profit to the university but it would certainly raise the number of credits by 1,000 FYE and help in our state allocation calculation. Additionally, these missing 1,000 students are not present to create an additional positive economic impact for the campus and the St. Cloud community!

So back to Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy McGee’s argument that SCSU doesn’t have the type of housing desired by students. Clearly, her argument doesn’t hold up to close examination because the occupancy of the residence halls is actually higher than expected with the declining enrollment. As a result, the percentage of students that would normally desire accommodations in the residence halls has gone up. Her thinking that on-campus housing is less desirable is based on looking at the total numbers of students living in the residence halls and not understanding how the additional capacity and the decline in the number of the potential residence hall residents affects the occupancy rate. One might expect more of a CFO where accounting is involved.

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According to this article, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, aka ABM, is a “liberal leaning group.” To be fair to the article, though, they took some pretty substantive swipes at ABM’s attacks against Jeff Johnson:

“Tea Party Republican Jeff Johnson voted to cut education, so he could give millions in tax breaks to big corporations,” the ad claims.

Contrary to what the ad claims, Johnson voted for an increase in K–12 education when he served in the Minnesota House, not a cut, according to final appropriations.

“I voted to increase education funding,” Johnson said. “We do this in government all the time when the increase isn’t as big as they wanted they say it was a cut.”

Here’s part of what Alisa Von Hagel, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin Superior, said about ABM’s ad:

The attack ad in its entirety is not grossly misleading or horribly inaccurate when compared to other television advertisements voters are being inundated with this election cycle.

That isn’t the same as saying it’s a true ad. It doesn’t even reach the point of being misleading. It’s like saying ‘Yeah, it’s dishonest but it isn’t as worthless as some of the vile crap that’s out there.’

Here’s something else that Dr. Von Hagel said about ABM’s ad:

“The most egregious part of the ad is this connection between education cuts and tax breaks for corporations which is not necessarily a claim there is any factual basis to make,” Von Hagel said.

Here’s the filthy part of the ad. Jeff Johnson didn’t cut K-12 spending. He voted to increase K-12 spending. He just didn’t increase K-12 spending as much as Education Minnesota wanted.

Gov. Dayton and the DFL tripped over themselves to increase spending on K-12 to the level that Education Minnesota asked for. That isn’t responsible government. That’s government of, by and for the special interests that fund DFL campaigns.

Bill Glahn is onto something about the ad, too (H/T: Mitch Berg):

Apparently the pejorative “Tea Party Republican” must test particularly well with low information voters. Or, perhaps its use in the ad is a sign the Democrats are concerned about turning out their base in an off-year election.

Ms. Livermore makes the dubious claim that Johnson “cut education by over $500 million” back in 2003, and then gave that money to corporations in 2005. Keep in mind that a similar ABM ad was judged “Misleading” by Minnesota Public Radio (of all places) for making those exact same claims. [The bill Johnson voted for in 2003 actually increased (rather than cut) public school spending.]

No, the real lie in the ad comes from the “appeal to authority” of having an ordinary “classroom teacher” attack Johnson’s education policy. According to her LinkedIn profile, Ms. Livermore served on the governing board of the teachers’ union Education Minnesota from 2004 to 2007. [By the way, she spells the word “education” incorrectly on her profile.]

Bill should cut Ms. Livermore some slack on the spelling. Chances are she attended a public school so what can you expect?

The point of the ad is to depict Ms. Livermore as just a concerned teacher. She definitely doesn’t fit that description after serving on Education Minnesota’s governing board.

This is just another bit of proof that ABM, which is the DFL’s messaging center, isn’t interested in informing voters. Their mission is to win voters over with whatever means are available. If that means lying or intentionally misleading, then that’s what ABM will do.

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Budget Lies?
by Silence Dogood

There is a wealth of information available on the web. The website for the Office of Finance and Administration contains the Annual Reports for SCSU going all the way back to FY02.

At the beginning of each Annual Report is a letter from the President submitting the Annual Report to the Chancellor and giving a brief summary. A portion of President Potter’s letter to Chancellor Rosenstone for FY11 is reproduced below:

On page two of President Potter’s letter is the following paragraph:

As part of the audit, there is a section on the “Financial Highlights.”

So despite a 0.7% decrease in state appropriation revenue, the university still increased its net assets by $10.8 million (actually $10.88 million). The following summary table is also part of the audit report.

In FY10, the administration said that the university was facing a dire financial crisis and $14,000,000 needed to be cut from the budget during reorganization. Several times since then, the administration has cited that they had to cut $14,000,000 from the budget. The audit seems to show that if there was a growth in the net assets of $10,900,000 in FY11, then the administration perhaps actually only needed to cut $3,100,000 and not $14,000,000 to have a balanced budget!

At the beginning of the Annual Report for FY12 a portion of President Potter’s letter to Chancellor Rosenstone is reproduced below.

On page two of President Potter’s letter is the following paragraph:

The following summary table is also part of the audit report.

So the cuts to the budget in FY11 carried forward and, in fact, increased the total net assets by $23,900,000 in FY12. It certainly looks like the cuts made in FY11 were larger than necessary if the net profitability more than doubles from $10,900,000 to $23,900,000—a growth of $13,000,000!

At the beginning of the Annual Report for FY13 a portion of President Potter’s letter to Chancellor Rosenstone is reproduced below.

On page three of President Potter’s letter is the following paragraph.

The following summary table is also part of the audit report.

The rate of net growth dropped for FY 13 from $23,900,000 to only $18,000,000! However, this still represents a ROI (Return on Investment) of over 10%!

The audit for FY14 has yet to be completed but last spring, the website for the Office of Finance and Administration showed SCSU’s FY 2014 Budget, which is reproduced below.

This budget predicted that SCSU would finish FY14 with a balanced budget. This budget also shows that FY13 ended with a surplus of $4,556,769. It is important to note that this surplus occurred despite a drop in FYE for FY13 of 6.3% (13,928 to 13,053). The audit report shows an increase of $18,000,000 so there is a pretty large discrepancy between the two numbers—something on the order of $13,443,231.

Additionally, the administration predicted a balanced budget for FY14, despite a 5.0% drop in FYE enrollment (when they were only planning on a 4% drop). The audit will not be made public until late this fall but I would bet that the total net assets will be larger (or at worst only slightly smaller than in FY13).

Last March, Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy McGee presented an enrollment projection to the Budget Advisory Committee for FY15, which called for a 3.2% drop in enrollment that required cutting $3,600,000 from the budget. In an email to the campus community from President Potter on Thursday, August 27, 2014, he announced: “As I write this, we anticipate a tuition revenue decrease with a projected decline in enrollment of between 4 and 5% this fall” resulting in a ” shortfall in our FY ’15 budget estimated between $8-$10 million.” While I was certainly never a math wiz, it is hard to understand how increasing the enrollment drop from 3.2% to at worst 5% will increase the deficit from $3,600,000 to between $8,000,000-$10,000,000. Even using the $8,000,000 number this represents an increase in the deficit of 122% for, at worst, a 56% increase in the drop in enrollment. This should make sense and it just doesn’t.

On Friday, August 29, 2014 an article appeared in the St. Cloud Times entitled “St. Cloud State faces a potential 10M deficit.” In the article, there is a quote (that is not in President Potter’s email to the campus community) stating: “The university saw deficits of nearly $6 million in 2011 and $13 million in 2012, which led to program cuts and reductions in staff.”

If you look at the annual reports reproduced above, in FY11 there was an increase of $10,900,000 and in FY12 an increase of $23,900,000. Clearly, some people can’t read a balance sheet. One might assume that they either do not understand the complexity of financial reporting or distortion was their intent. You be the judge.

This LTE in the St. Cloud Times shows the growing discontent with Common Core from across the political spectrum:

Sandra Stotsky was a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee from 2009-10. She is professor emerita at the University of Arkansas. She wrote that Common Core’s K-12 standards, instead of emerging from a state-led process in which experts and educators were well represented, were written by people who did not represent the relevant stakeholders and included no English teachers.

Common Core is supported by lots of supposedly well-meaning politicians. Chief among those politicians is Jeb Bush, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016. The Gates Foundation is the chief funder of CCSS.

That’s one of the problems with CCSS.

“Because Common Core is run by private corporations and foundations, there can be no Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings or ‘sunshine laws’ to find out who got to choose the people who actually wrote the standards. It’s completely non-transparent and rather shady.”

That’s just the tip of a rather disgusting iceberg. A significant part of CCSS, aka Common Core State Standards, is data collection on families. I spoke recently with a friend who has a 3-year-old. The school district sent her a questionnaire asking things like whether there were guns in the house, whether they planned on home-schooling their child and other questions totally unrelated to the education of her child.

I wrote this post last fall to alert people to the threat CCSS poses. Here’s part of what I included in my post:

What did this Work Group look like? Focusing only on ELA, the make-up of the Work Group was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers. How could legitimate ELA standards be created without the very two groups of educators who know the most about what students should and could be learning in secondary English classes? CCSSI also released the names of individuals in a larger “Feedback Group.” This group included one English professor and one high-school English teacher. But it was made clear that these people would have only an advisory role – final decisions would be made by the English-teacher-bereft Work Group.

The woman that wrote that paragraph is Dr. Stotsky, the woman quoted in the Times LTE. The fact that the working group putting together the standards for English language arts didn’t include any English professors or high school English teachers should automatically disqualify them as a serious working group. They certainly shouldn’t be considered an authority on school standards on any subject.

The American Federation of Teachers is calling for a “moratorium on using Common Core test scores to determine whether students deserve to advance to the next grade — or teachers deserve to keep their jobs,” according to Politico.

When conservatives and progressives agree that something is bad and they can list their substantive objections as to why they think it’s bad, that’s proof CCSS should be totally scrapped.

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