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Is St. Cloud Technical and Community College a Competitor to SCSU?
by Silence Dogood

According to Google Maps, St. Cloud Technical and Community College (SCTCC) is located 2.8 miles North of SCSU with a driving time of seven minutes. For students, it might take considerably longer to find a legal parking space at SCSU even if you park in “K Lot” to the South of campus and ride the Husky Shuttle. But let’s leave parking issues for another time. The question to be answered is: Does SCTCC compete for students with SCSU?

Historically, SCTCC was called St. Cloud Technical College. It was a place where you went to learn plumbing, surveying, construction, dental hygiene and other “technical skills.” Since there was no community college nearby St. Cloud, SCSU’s Division of General Studies (DGS) functioned as a community college within the university and provided access to higher education for students who did not meet the admission standards to the university. Back in the 1980s, the DGS program was quite successful and the five-year graduation rate for the DGS program was actually higher than that of the students who matriculated normally.

The next series of events is somewhat less clear, at least inferring cause and effect is not certain. Whether it was a result of budgets being cut, the loss of services for DGS students, declines in the academic abilities of the entering DGS students, a devaluing of the DGS program, the loss of key faculty and staff in the program through retirement, the success of the DGS program entered a state of decline. Recent efforts, beginning with renaming the program Academic College Excellence (ACE), are attempting to reverse the trend.

In the Spring of 2011, the Enrollment Management Committee projected a decline in the enrollment for the upcoming fall semester. The prediction of an enrollment decline came after six straight years of increasing enrollment and was based on the uncertainty surrounding academic reorganization, elimination of over 30 programs/majors and significant cuts in the budget. Provost Malhotra did not like the level of the decline projected by the Enrollment Management Committee and he decreased the projected level of the decline. Also, without consultation with the Enrollment Management Committee or the Faculty Association through meet and confer, in an apparent attempt to increase enrollment, Provost Malhotra increased the size of the incoming DGS program from its then current level of about 500 students to 850 students!

Fast forward to Fall 2013, on September 5th, the Provost announced at meet and confer that he has cut the number of the incoming students in the ACE program by 160 students because these students are not successful at SCSU and the university is unwilling to spend the additional funding necessary to provide the services necessary for these students to be successful. In essence, he said come back when you are better prepared. The Provost said it in nicer words: “we may see these students in the future.”

Where are the students denied entry to SCSU going? Are they ending up at SCTCC? Is SCSU losing a significant number of students to SCTCC? An examination of enrollment at SCSU and SCTCC can answer these questions. The FYE enrollment for SCTCC taken from the MnSCU website is shown in the following figure:

From FY07 to FY13, enrollment at SCTCC increased 711 FYE from 2,782 to 3,493, that’s an increase of 25.6%. Dividing by 6 yields an average annual percentage increase of 4.27%. Not too bad! If you only look at the growth from FY07 to FY11, it is an even more impressive 31.9%, which yields an average annual percentage increase of 7.96%. Clearly, from FY11 to FY12 enrollment dropped by 6.03% but rebounded in FY13 gaining 1.33% over the enrollment in FY12. How does this compare to the enrollments at SCSU? The FYE enrollment for SCSU taken from the MnSCU website is shown in the following figure:

From FY07 to FY10 the two school’s enrollment trends look remarkably similar in their pattern of growth. In FY11, the enrollment at SCTCC continued rising but the enrollment at SCSU dropped by a small amount 0.8%. Both SCTCC and SCSU experienced declines in enrollment in FY12, 6.92% for SCSU and 6.03% for SCTCC. However, here is where the similarity ends. In FY13, the enrollment at SCSU continued the downward trend and decreased by 6.35% while SCTC rebounded and increased enrollment by 1.33%. To answer the question are students moving from SCSU to SCTCC can be answered by looking at the following Figure which compares the enrollments for both SCSU and SCTCC on the same graph:

Viewed in this way it is clear that students have not moved in large numbers from SCSU to SCTCC. Quite simply, the number of students SCSU is ‘losing’ is far greater than the number of students gained by SCTCC.

Looking at the data for Fall 2013, SCSU’s enrollment is down another 5.5% while again enrollment at SCTCC has risen 3.4%. So it is clear that SCTCC and SCSU are on very different paths! This fall SCSU has lost over 350 FYE but SCTCC has only gained 55 FYE. As a percentage, even if 100% of the students gained by SCTCC this fall came from SCSU that would mean that at most only 15.7% of SCSU’s decline is due to SCTCC. In other words 84.3% must be due to something else! However, it is unlikely that 100% of the students not admitted to the ACE program enrolled at SCTCC so clearly the vast majority of the decline in enrollment at SCSU is not due to SCTCC!

SCSU has just completed interviewing candidates for the Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Student Recruitment and Student Transition and an announcement naming the successful candidate should be made soon. Hopefully, this person can come in and get started helping to reverse SCSU’s present course. Otherwise, it might be like being hired as the new band director for the Titanic—after the ship hit the iceberg and we all know how well that turned out.

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