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Leaders Lead!
by Silence Dogood

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

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

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

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

What has President Earl Potter done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Projections
by Silence Dogood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is an Enrollment Management Plan Really Necessary?
by Silence Dogood

Just over three years ago, on September 20, 2011, President Potter gave Dr. Mahmoud Saffari, Vice President for Enrollment Management, ninety days notice that his contract was being terminated (i.e., that he was being fired). Dr. Potter stated that his firing was, in part, because he failed to develop an Enrollment Management Plan. Three years later, there is still no enrollment management plan and, surprisingly, no one else has been fired. Perhaps the lack of an Enrollment Management Plan was just a ruse for getting rid of Dr. Saffari because it certainly seems that there has been no urgency to develop one since Dr. Saffari’s departure.

In the fiscal year following Dr. Saffari’s departure, SCSU lost 5.4% FYE enrollment, followed the next year by another 5.0% FYE enrollment decline. The administration is projecting another loss between 4-5% this year. The cumulative enrollment loss over the three-year period FY13-FY15 is 14.2%. That’s assuming that the enrollment is only down this academic year by 4.5%.

In order to better predict enrollments, three years ago President Potter formed the Data Analytics Group. The Data Analytics Group’s enrollment prediction for FY14 was a projected loss of 2.4% enrollment. Enrollment dropped by 5.0%. Last March, the Data Analytics Group’s enrollment projection for this year was for a loss of 3.2% enrollment. That number has since been raised to a loss of between 4-5%. As a result of their consistent and significant underestimating of the enrollment declines the past two years, it is really difficult to believe that the projections of the Data Analytics Group are accurate.

Minnesota State University—Mankato has a lot of information that is available on its website to anyone with a computer. This certainly isn’t the case for SCSU where lots of information simply isn’t available, not updated, or only available to people having access to the SharePoint website.

One of the notable pieces of information that is publically available on Mankato’s website is their Enrollment Management Plan.

http://www.mnsu.edu/student/enrollmentmanagement.html

Mankato’s Enrollment Management Plan is a total of three pages long and contains aspirational goals that can be readily assessed. Mankato’s Enrollment Management Plan is reproduced below.

In the three years since Dr. Saffari’s departure, President Potter has failed to develop an Enrollment Management Plan. The only thing resembling an Enrollment Management Plan that has come from Dr. Potter is that he is ‘right sizing’ the university. If you do not have a plan all roads lead to an unknown destination. Mankato has specific goals so they know where they are going and at critical decision points they can choose a path with a higher probability of reaching their goal. Since SCSU has no plan, decisions are made without consideration of the intended final destination. It appears that SCSU is proclaiming that we arrived at our destination and claim that was where we were going all along. As a result, I suggest that SCSU use Mankato’s Enrollment Management Plan as template. With a few changes, it will give SCSU some goals that the university can work toward achieving. Having a plan, even the Mankato plan, would give SCSU some goals to work towards and a means of assessing the university’s progress towards those goals. Right now all we have is someone saying we’re ‘right sizing.’

With the assumption that SCSU only loses 4.5% this year, which is an overly optimistic projection, SCSU will have lost 21.5% of its FYE enrollment in five years. On the other hand, from its Enrollment Management Plan, it is clear that Mankato is aspiring to grow its headcount enrollment from 15,000 to 17,000 by 2017. Clearly, SCSU and Mankato are heading in different directions. If you had a choice, which path would you chose? Apparently, Minnesota students and parents are choosing and it doesn’t look too good for SCSU.

I’ll risk saying this but the professional political punditry needs to get start seeing things through a policy impact perspective, not through a ‘will it play politically’ perspective. During this morning’s gubernatorial debate, Gov. Dayton said that he’s long advocated for a single-payer health care system.

What was the collective reaction from the professional political punditry? Crickets. No big deal. Keep moving.

The government, whether we’re talking about the Obama administration or the Dayton administration, is incapable of handling anything that complex. In too many instances, it’s incapable of handling fundamental responsibilities.

That professional political pundits think it isn’t a big deal to advocate for a system that’s never worked anywhere because that’s been his standard answer is shameful. Style points seem to matter more than character, policy impacts and what’s best for Minnesota.

It’s time to tune out the professional political pundits because they’re too interested in election outcomes. Unfortunately, they aren’t interested enough in policy outcomes. Jeff Johnson’s policies will make life better in Minnesota. Unlike Gov. Dayton, Jeff Johnson will fight to build the Sandpiper Pipeline because that’ll free up railcar space so farmers can get their crops to market. That makes life better for hard-working Minnesota farmers. Unlike Gov. Dayton, Jeff Johnson will fight to open PolyMet because that’ll create hundreds of good-paying jobs. That’d make life significantly better for miners and mining communities.

Apparently, these things don’t matter to the professional political punditry from both sides of the aisle. Their tweets didn’t speak to what’s best for Minnesota. They just spoke to who won or lost based on game-changing moments and style points. That isn’t responsible journalism. That’s the type of partisanship that’s rotted our institutions and corrupted the political process.

If Republicans retake the House of Representatives and Gov. Dayton gets re-elected, Republicans will have a mandate because they spoke about issues. Gov. Dayton will have retained his title but he won’t have a mandate because he hasn’t spoken about what he’d do in his second term.

The DFL isn’t the party of no. They’re the party that won’t say no to their special interests that are driving Minnesota’s economy into the ground. Ask an Iron Ranger if they’re better off now than when Gov. Dayton took office. If they’re honest, they’ll say they aren’t. Their median household income has increased marginally. The percentage of people living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) grew by roughly 50%.

Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed. It’s virtually impossible to get changes made to policies to include or drop people from coverage. Still, Gov. Dayton insists that “it isn’t perfect” but that it’s getting better. Once a month, if not more often, we hear of another MNsure-related disaster.

Meanwhile, the professional political punditry insist that Gov. Dayton is winning because Jeff Johnson didn’t have that big game-changing moment. With all due respect, these political junkies are missing the point. Jeff Johnson has been solid. He’s provided sensible solutions to Minnesota’s biggest problems. Gov. Dayton has been dismissive, arrogant and utterly incompetent. He’s Minnesota’s version of Jimmy Carter.

It’s time to ignore the political junkies because they’re worried more about gamesmanship than doing what’s right for Minnesota. While we’re at it, it’d be great to get rid of the incompetent in the Governor’s Mansion, too.

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Something kept gnawing at me after I wrote this post. Here’s what kept bothering me:

That probe, begun almost 18 months ago, had centered on whether the university failed to return federal financial aid money it was required to return if the students whose grades were changed became ineligible to keep that financial aid.

I’ve finally figured out why that bothered me. The transcript scandal was pushed by the Faculty Association during their monthly Meet&Confer meetings with President Potter and members of his administration. If the FA hadn’t pushed the subject, it wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

That’s proven by the verifiable facts surrounding the scandal. First, as I wrote here, SCSU administration doesn’t think that an investigation is needed:

FA: I have a clarifying question. I heard you say this is a preliminary investigation at looking so once you do your preliminary then am I hearing you say then you will decide what your next step is going to be in terms of your going after other data collection for the past four years before this?

Admin: Sure so then we have as to what kind of data is relevant and we go there and we can collect the information so that it makes sense for you. The other thing is I won’t call it an investigation I would call analysis. So it’s a data analysis to understand if there is a spike and then understand whether it is due to factors outside our control or if it is factors of the band of discretion becoming wider.

Second, Potter’s administration hasn’t talked with professors who’ve reported students’ participation in their class deleted:

Chemistry Prof. Tamara Leenay also noticed discrepancies in 2012 and gave the documentation to McKenna. “It was just odd, all of the sudden, these grades are being changed,” she said.

Leenay said she has been out of state on vacation and did not meet with federal investigators. She also said that since she discovered the discrepancies and shared them with McKenna, no one from the administration has talked to her about the issue or asked for her records.

These incidents are proof that the Potter administration isn’t interested in investigating this scandal. This isn’t open to various interpretations. There’s just one explanation for the Potter administration’s inaction. They weren’t interested in the transcript scandal.

That’s important to the claim that “the probe” “had centered on whether the University failed to return federal financial aid money.”

Think about this. Why would professors worry about something that’s the administration’s responsibility? The professors consistently spoke out about the disappearing grades. LFR has covered this story extensively and exhaustively. LFR has reported more details about this scandal than all the other news agencies in the state…combined. While it’s true that professors I’ve interviewed on background were curious if SCSU had returned federal financial aid money, that was always a secondary issue. Transcript integrity and the damage done to SCSU’s academic reputation always topped their list of concerns.

That’s as it should be. Professors have enough responsibilities. They shouldn’t be required to monitor whether the administration has dealt with financial assistance from the federal government. That’s the administration’s responsibility.

The University’s insistence that the transcript scandal was always about “whether the university failed to return federal financial aid money” is pure Potter spin. That’s consistent. One of the things that’s been consistent from the Potter administration about this scandal is their spin. The other thing that’s been consistent about the Potter administration’s behavior during the transcript scandal is that they’ve refused to conduct a serious investigation into this major breech of academic integrity.

The only thing that’s worse than the Potter administration’s dishonesty is the St. Cloud Times’ gullibility.

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Where’s Earl? or Does IT Services Know A Secret?
by Silence Dogood

SCSU’s main webpage has a link to a search window where you can search for offices/departments or people (faculty/staff or students).

Having nothing better to do one afternoon, I performed a search for “Potter” just to see what would come up.

I was mildly amused that the President of the university couldn’t be found. Clicking on the box for “Students” shows four students with the last name Potter. Maybe when he’s in China, it’s like the old computer game: “Where in the World in Carmen Sandiego?” which was released in 1985.”

I then started wondering if IT services knew something I didn’t. So I went to back to the search window and found the “President’s Office” and clicked on the link. The following came up:

I was relieved that SCSU still has a President. However, I’m guessing someone in IT services is going to get a phone call shortly.

Mankato Wins the Contest for New Entering Freshman
by Silence Dogood

The 10th day enrollments are in and while the overall enrollment may change due to the numbers of concurrent enrollment students (high school students who receive credit for both high school and college courses at the same time) still to be registered, the number of New Entering Freshman (NEF) is pretty much their final number. The NEF headcount enrollments for SCSU and Minnesota State University-Mankato from Fall’08 to Fall’14 are shown in the following figure. The enrollment data for Mankato was provided by the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment at MSU-Mankato.

It’s not hard to see a see that there is a significant difference in the NEF numbers between the SCSU and Mankato. In Fall’08, SCSU was 29 NEF behind of Mankato. In Fall’09, SCSU moved back ahead of Mankato by 101 NEF. However, In Fall’10, Mankato moved past SCSU by 111 NEF and this represents a combined one-year change of 212 NEF. From that point on, the data shows the clear dominance in attracting NEF by MSU-Mankato.

In Fall’14 Mankato is ahead of SCSU by 586 NEF. In the last four years, Mankato has enrolled 2,225 more NEF than SCSU! Since it takes four to five years to work through the system to graduation, this enrollment difference is not going away any time soon.

As a result of enormous enrollment declines and poor financial management, SCSU is looking to cut $8-10 million from its current budget. At the same time, according to an article in the Mankato Free Press published on September 10, 2014,

With SCSU’s five straight years of enrollment decline including four years in a row of declines larger than 5% clearly, SCSU and Mankato are on different paths.

Just a simple calculation can show the financial impact of the differences between just the NEF for these two institutions. For budgeting purposes, each student taking a full load of credits (30 credits per year) generates over $7,000 in tuition and $4,500 in state appropriations. The combined total is $11,500 per student. For the 2,225 NEF that SCSU has ‘lost’ in the last four years, this represents a combined total of $25,600,000! Perhaps the administration has to rethink their calculation of an $8,000,000-$10,000,000 loss from enrollment declines. The administration’s gross underestimation of enrollment declines the past two years may have also translated into a gross underestimation of the amount of loss from the enrollment decline.

Only time will tell whether SCSU can recover from its unprecedented enrollment decline.

After reading this Our View editorial, it’s clear that the St. Cloud Times doesn’t understand what the transcript scandal at St. Cloud State is about.

That probe, begun almost 18 months ago, had centered on whether the university failed to return federal financial aid money it was required to return if the students whose grades were changed became ineligible to keep that financial aid.

That isn’t how the scandal started. That came months later. By the time the US Department of Education showed up on the SCSU campus, along with the FBI, members of the FA had started questioning the Potter administration about why students’ participation in classes were disappearing from SCSU’s official transcript system. By the time the FBI and the DoE visited SCSU, the Potter administration had told the Faculty Association that they didn’t view the transcript scandal as an investigation. The Potter administration said that they thought of it as data analysis:

FA: I have a clarifying question. I heard you say this is a preliminary investigation at looking so once you do your preliminary then am I hearing you say then you will decide what your next step is going to be in terms of your going after other data collection for the past four years before this?

Admin: Sure so then we have as to what kind of data is relevant and we go there and we can collect the information so that it makes sense for you. The other thing is I won’t call it an investigation I would call analysis. So it’s a data analysis to understand if there is a spike and then understand whether it is due to factors outside our control or if it is factors of the band of discretion becoming wider.

It’s clear that the Potter administration, including Devinder Malhotra, then SCSU’s Provost, and Adam Hammer, President Potter’s spokesman, spun the situation:

In addressing this concern at a meet and confirm meeting conducted amongst university professors and administration, Hammer said the cause for concern primarily dealt with late drops and withdrawals.

Recently, questions about student registration and transcript changes, specifically late withdrawals and drops, at St. Cloud State University have been reported in a few media outlets. — Devinder Malhotra

Here’s what Tamara Leenay said about the scandal:

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Last spring, Tamara Leenay, a chemistry professor at St. Cloud State University, was reviewing grades when she came across the transcript of a student who failed an organic chemistry class she taught a couple of years earlier.

“I noticed the course was not even on his transcript,” Leenay said. “There was no ‘F.’ There was no course number…It was completely gone. And I have [a] record that he was in my class and that I gave him a grade…and I was never notified of any of these changes.”

The St. Cloud Times either doesn’t know about this video or they simply chose to not report on it:

In the video, Dr. Tracey Ore explained how easy it is to scrub grades from students’ transcripts:

PROFESSOR: How long, um, how, Tracy, how long will it be ah, I guess she got the grades off of there. Is that, is that a semester-long process or is that a short process?
DR. ORE: It can happen in a day.
PROFESSOR: Oh, ok.
DR. ORE: When I did it last year, Sue wanted to meet with me and say here’s my documentation and it might have to check with disability student services, check with the math department, check with whoever else. Considering all this, yeah…

I wrote that in late January, 2014. The St. Cloud Times has never reported on this tape. I know they have it because professors who met with them told them about it.

Contrary to the St. Cloud Times’ Editorial Board’s editorial, this isn’t about the Faculty Association making additional suggestions. It’s about the Potter administration’s admitting that people within the administration, starting with Dr. Tracy Ore, started altering students’ transcripts without justification. It’s about the Potter administration conducting a thorough investigation into what really happened. That thorough investigation must start with interviewing Dr. Tamara Leenay, Dr. Phyllis VanBuren and other professors whose students had their transcripts altered to remove failing grades after they’d completed their classes.

Finally, it’s time the St. Cloud Times stopped accepting everything President Potter, Bernie Omann and Adam Hammer said as gospel fact. It’s time they started questioning their statements because their statements are questionable, if not laughable.

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Enrollment Decline Denial
by Silence Dogood

When first pressed about SCSU’s declining enrollment, President Potter declined to even acknowledge that enrollment was declining because the headcount enrollment was not declining by a significant amount. Although he should have known better, one can understand how President Potter could have been deceived when looking at the fall headcount enrollment. The data in the figure below is from the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness.

If you chose to look at the change from Fall 2012 to Fall 2013, the headcount enrollment declined only 154 students, which translates into a decline of 0.9%

The data in the table below is from the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness.

Unfortunately, headcount is not what pays the bills.

The reason why President should have known better is also available from the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness. The figure shows SCSU’s FYE enrollment from FY00 through FY14.

Also on the website of the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness is a table showing the raw data, a part of which is reproduced below. The bold number is the total FYE enrollment, the number below it is the undergraduate FYE enrollment and the bottom number is the graduate FYE enrollment.

Additionally, there is a figure showing the year-to-year changes, a part of which is reproduced below.

The data clearly shows that for Fall 2011, headcount enrollment was down 5.6%, the FYE enrollment for FY12 was down 6.9%. Similarly, for Fall 2012, while headcount enrollment was down 3.9%, FYE enrollment for FY13 was down 6.4%. Lastly, for Fall 2013, headcount enrollment was down 0.9%, but FYE enrollment for FY14 was down 5.1%. While it’s easy to understand why the St. Cloud Times might not understand the difference between headcount and FYE enrollments, President Potter and his management team should.

Only responding during the fourth year of enrollment declines over 5%, clearly demonstrates President Potter was fooled by headcount enrollments or simply asleep at the helm. At UW-Eau Claire, headcount enrollment is down this fall by 2.1% (two week numbers) but expected only to be down 1.5% for the final fall numbers and the administration is trying to analyze what has caused a 1.5% decline to see if they can quickly reverse the decline.

SCSU’s FYE enrollment from FY08 through FY15 is shown in the following figure.

The FYE enrollment for FY15 assumes a 5.5% decline for the year. This summer’s FYE enrollment was down 10.1% from the previous summer. This fall’s FYE enrollment is currently down over 7% when compared to final fall enrollment numbers but only down 6% when compared to year-to-date numbers. As a result, assuming a drop of only 5.5% may actually underestimate the amount of decline.

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%. Significant enrollment changes are hard to bring about quickly and the ‘institutional inertia’ will likely mean enrollments will continue down for the next few years. Last March, the Data Analytics Group projected enrollment for FY16 to be down 2.3% and FY17 to be down 1.3%. Given the significant underestimation of the enrollment declines the past two years, one can assume the declines will likely be double their estimates. Using declines of 4.6% for FY16 and 2.6% for FY17, SCSU will have an FYE enrollment in May 2017 of 10,872 FYE. If true, the enrollment decline from FY10 would be an astounding 28.0%.

While enrollment projections that far into the future may have only a little more reliability than the Farmer’s Almanac and long-range hurricane predictions, it certainly is sobering and depressing to think that the enrollment is headed to numbers under 11,000 FYE, lows last seen in the early 1980’s, which is almost 35 years.

Wisconsin Enrollments
by Silence Dogood

The Leader-Telegram published an article September 25, 2014 on enrollment at UW-Eau Claire, UW-River Falls and UW-Stout. According to the article,

Starting with the university with declining enrollment—Eau Claire. UW-Eau Claire lists a second-week headcount of 10,619 students, which is down 223 from the same time a year ago. This decline corresponds to a decline in enrollment of 2.1%. When numbers are finalized the article reports that UW-Eau Claire expects to be down only 150 students, which would represent a decline of 1.4%. The article further states that: “The university’s examining statistics to find reasons for the drop.” This contrasts with SCSU, where President Potter simply continues to say: We’re ‘right sizing.’

Consider these two universities. One university is where the enrollment is down 1.4% and people are worried and asking questions. Another university is down in enrollment over 22% and the only comment from the administration is that we’re ‘right sizing.’ However, recently the administration has started saying that we need to “grow our programs.” So the obvious question is how far did SCSU go past the ‘right size’?

UW-River Falls enrollment is listed as being down 20 students but with students still to enroll in mid-semester classes expects “it will be nearly identical to what we had last year.” SCSU recently projected a decline of 4-5% for FY15 (up from 3.2% last March). Unfortunately, current data points to being down significantly more than the administration’s latest estimates. It looks like SCSU will now add its fourth year in a row of enrollment decline over 5%.

The article also states that if UW-Stout enrolls eight more students, it will break its enrollment record set in the fall of 2011. “Meeting freshmen enrollment targets, a rise in transfer students, higher retention rates and more people taking graduate courses were factors to UW-Stout’s increasing numbers.”

Looking at the data for SCSU’s new entering freshmen (NEF):

Fall’08 to Fall’14, NEF enrollment has dropped by 721 students and represents a drop of 30.0%! So it looks like SCSU and Stout are on very different trajectories.

Looking at the data for SCSU’s transfer students (NET):

Fall’08 to Fall’14, NET enrollment has dropped by 306 students and represents a drop of 23.1%! So again it looks like SCSU and Stout are on very different trajectories.

SCSU doesn’t report retention rates. Most of the MnSCU universities have tables of retention rates on their websites; SCSU does not. Historically, SCSU’s retention rates were in the high 70’s. Recently, they have fallen into the high 60’s and now several have claimed to have that they moved back into the low 70’s. However, the administration has not publically provided data on retention rates. The rates at Winona and Mankato are much higher.

Looking at the data for SCSU’s graduate enrollment:

This is the one area showing an increase like Stout. Unfortunately, a 1.00% growth in graduate enrollment, which is only 12% of the total enrollment, will not increase the overall enrollment significantly. Consider if the graduate enrollment had grown by 10% this fall instead of 1.00%, the overall enrollment would have increased by a whopping 1.2%. Given SCSU’s current enrollment situation, this still might be cause for celebration. However, it will not significantly affect the enrollment decline or the need for $8,000,000-$10,000,000 in budget reductions.

Certainly, the graduate enrollment increase is good news. However, since the university was ‘reorganized,’ graduate enrollment has dropped 15.0%. As a result, from an enrollment of 1,620 at a 1% rate of growth, it will take 17 years to get back to the enrollment level in Fall’10. It is also worth noting that the drop occurred in only four years. Given that significant funding cuts will need to be made, it is unlikely that graduate enrollment will continue to rise for two reasons. First, graduate programs have smaller class sizes and therefore higher personnel costs. Secondly, graduate assistantships are easy targets for budget cutters. Neither is a recipe for success in growing a program in a time of budget cutting.

The last time the university cut these kinds of dollars from the budget was when the university underwent reorganization and the enrollment was down over 5% in each of the four succeeding years. It doesn’t look like the enrollment has hit bottom yet. Now the university is cutting again. How will the results be different this time?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — Albert Einstein