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When it was reported that SCSU’s enrollment had dropped 4.5%, SCSU Provost Malhotra tried spinning it as routine:

“This was not unexpected and was less than anticipated,” said Devinder Maholtra, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “While we saw decreases overall, we did see positive increases among some segments.”

“As with many colleges and universities, there are numerous factors leading to fewer enrolled students. We have seen indicators that point to economic hardships, decreased funding opportunities and students wanting to stay closer to home,” Malhotra said.

Here’s what isn’t routine:

The University’s partnership with SCTCC accounted for 169 of this year’s 1,122 incoming transfer students. Transfer students make up about 40 percent of St. Cloud State’s total student population.

Enrollment shrunk by 774 students. That isn’t awful by itself. When that’s combined with 1,122 students transferring into SCSU, that’s frightening. The only way that happens if if a ton of students left SCSU for what they perceived as greener pastures.

There’s no way to spin that as a positive development.

Here’s SCSU’s recent enrollment history:

SCSU enrollment history
2012 — 16,457
2011 — 17,231
2010 — 18,319
2009 — 17,686
2008 — 16,998
2007 — 16,882

That means SCSU lost all of the enrollment gains of the past 6 school years and then some. That isn’t awful. That’s terrible.

More important, though, is the likelihood that this is causing major difficulties with SCSU’s finances. Couple that with Chancellor Rosenstone’s budget proposal to cap tuition increases at MnSCU at 3% for the next biennium and you’ve got lots of problems heading in SCSU’s direction.

With the economy hitting a tough stretch, it’s difficult picturing a scenario where SCSU’s enrollment increases sometime soon. Couple that with a smaller-than-hoped-for budget increase from the legislature and you’re potentially looking at some serious budget cutting at SCSU.

The only way that doesn’t happen is if the legislature starts limiting the number of administrators each university employs while limiting the number of administrators serving at MnSCU Headquarters in St. Paul.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this year’s 30-day enrollment figures weren’t released until Christmas shopping had started. This year’s report is filled with negatives. In 2007, the report was filled with positives. That year’s report was published on Oct. 18th, a time when people were more likely to take note of the University’s good news.

The University’s actions this year, compared with their enrollment reporting in other years, suggests that they aren’t as proud of this year’s report as they’re spinning it.

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