Spring’s 10th Day Enrollments More Bad News
by Silence Dogood

An early indicator of the final enrollment for a term is the 10th day enrollment. By the 10th day of a semester, most students will have settled on which classes they’re taking and made arrangement to pay tuition. There are some additional part-term classes or graduate classes that are not captured by the 10th day number. However, these numbers are typically small when compared to the 10th day number.

Since all of the universities in MnSCU began spring semester classes on January 13th, the tenth day was reached on Monday January 27th. As a result, the enrollment on Tuesday, January 28th would reflect the enrollment as of the “10th day”. As of January 29th at 4:30 am (the 11th day), the MnSCU website shows the enrollment numbers in the following table:

If you look at the data, Southwest stands out as an outlier. The reason for Southwest looking so bad is that it has an extremely large post-secondary program that registers later in the semester. From the FY13 data, at Southwest as much as 34.5% of the FYE enrollment comes from post-secondary students and much of this registration historically happens after the 10th day. Using data from prior years, including a comparison of the fall semester enrollment for this academic year, Southwest’s enrollment will probably be down less than 100 FYE for this spring. As a result, Southwest’s final enrollment number will not look as bad as there 10th day number might indicate.

SCSU becomes the outlier when controlling for Southwest’s special case! The decline in spring semester FYE at SCSU (447) is larger than the drop in FYE for the other five universities combined (329). If an estimated drop in FYE enrollment for Southwest (100) is added, the drop in FYE at SCSU is still larger than all of the universities in the entire MnSCU system!

For S’14, the FYE enrollment change compared to S’13 is shown in the following figure (omitting Southwest):

Clearly, SCSU has some enrollment yet to be added due to post-secondary students, part-term and graduate classes so the spring semester enrollment decline will likely be less than 8.0%. However, it is not likely to be much smaller. Analysis of the data shows that SCSU has significantly increased its headcount enrollment of post-secondary students over the past several years. In the fall semester, 19.7% of the head count enrollment came from post-secondary students. Unfortunately, since post-secondary students only take an average of 5.1 credits, it takes almost 6 post-secondary students to equal 1 FYE. As a result, the third-trimester post-secondary classes will not move the enrollment significantly. Additionally, there aren’t enough part-term or graduate courses to affect the final enrollment number either.

As a result, the final enrollment decline for FY14, which currently is listed as 6.0% will probably be closer to 6% than the 5% decline predicted by President Potter last September. However, what is important to understand is that even if President Potter was exactly correct and the enrollment was down only 5%, the decline at SCSU would still be double the next largest annual decline at any MnSCU university! Aside from SCSU, the largest annual enrollment decline is at Minnesota State University—Moorhead, which is currently down 2.3% for the year and, as a result, is reducing their faculty and staff by 10%. President Potter shouldn’t feel too good if the enrollment decline were to meet his prediction. A 5% decline is a significant decline! Coupled with the declines from the past three years, the enrollment decline at SCSU is staggering! The annual declines in enrollment from FY11 are shown in the following figure:

Two items can be gleaned from this data. First, it appears that the trend in enrollment decline the past couple of years is heading in the right direction! Unfortunately, if this trend is linear, SCSU’s enrollment is projected to stop declining in FY26, which means at the current rate of reduced decline it will take 12 years to stop year-to-year declines! Second, if the post-secondary enrollment students are taken into account, the rate of the decline in enrollment is no longer declining! Another way to put it is that without the spectacular expansion of the post-secondary enrollments, the enrollment trend points to less students on campus.

The expansion of the post-secondary enrollments at SCSU is also something that has occurred without much, if any, discussion. No one has discussed how 20% of the headcount enrollment being high school students affects the university and surrounding community. It is true that, any port in a storm is better than no port. However, when the storm clears and you look around, some ports are much less desirable than others!

Without a shared vision for the university’s future, it is hard to imagine that SCSU is headed to the most desirable port. But it’s actually worse when there is no VISION and storm clouds or the actual raging storm is ignored. If an institution lacks vision, it simply stumbles around in the dark and where it ends up is left to chance! Despite the fact that a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn, is would be better if SCSU leaders opened their eyes and admitted the institution needs to work on a shared vision leading to a course that leads to a desired port. If SCSU’s leaders do not open their eyes, the institution’s chances of arriving at the desired port will be no better than that blind squirrel finding an acorn.

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