Liar, Liar President Potter!
by Silence Dogood

President Potter continues to justify the drop in enrollment at SCSU by saying he’s “right sizing” the university and that “Enrollments are down across the country.” However, this flies in the face of the data. Let’s look at our neighbor to the East. The University of Wisconsin system has an incredible amount of data that is available to anyone (, not just those who have received special permission, as is the case in Minnesota. The MnSCU system could certainly learn a thing or two from Wisconsin in terms of openness and transparency! The data for the University of Wisconsin System is shown in the following table:

The data for Full Year Equivalent (FYE) enrollment at SCSU is shown in the following table:

While it is true that you will get slightly different results depending on the years you pick for comparison, let’s pick FY2010—the year SCSU had its largest enrollment. In the Wisconsin system this would correspond to the 2009-10 academic year (AY2009-10).

Over the time period from FY10 to FY14, SCSU’s FYE enrollment has dropped 17.8%. The Wisconsin system uses the term Full-Time Equivalent Enrollment, which is exactly analogous to FYE and a similar comparison for the entire system shows an increase of 59 students from 153,193 to 153,252! That means enrollment isn’t down all across the country, especially in Wisconsin because it is actually UP!

If you look at the data for each of the universities individually, some are up in enrollment while some are down. The following figure shows the percentage change in FTE enrollment from AY2009-10 to AY2013-14 for the Wisconsin comprehensive universities—the universities that are most similar to SCSU.

Five universities are down in enrollment over this time period, while six are up. Overall, enrollment is up 1.6% for all of Wisconsin’s comprehensive universities. From the data shown for this time period, the worst performing university is UW-Parkside with a decline in enrollment of 10.5%. Compare this with SCSU’s decline of 17.8% over the same period of time and a decline of ‘only’ 10.5% starts looking pretty good. It is also important to note that two universities are up over 7% and one is up nearly 13%!

President Potter’s statement about enrollments being down across the country must exclude Wisconsin. How about looking within Minnesota? If we add Minnesota State University—Mankato to the graph and look at the time period FY10-FY14, we obtain the following figure:

Over the time period from FY10 to FY14, MSU-Mankato’s enrollment has grown by 2.0%, which means that there is a difference of almost 20 points between the percentage growth of MSU—Mankato and the percentage decline of SCSU. Remember SCSU is down 17.8% over from FY10-FY14.

Next time, let’s hope that President Potter checks his facts before he makes pronouncements that are easily disproven. It really makes him look bad!

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One Response to “Questioning President Potter’s dishonest statements”

  • Yeager says:

    There are some clear patterns here that are worth investigating. First – enrollments are down as you move from East to West across the state. Generally speaking, institutions west of the metro are suffering from enrollment issues while those closer to the East have fewer issues. Wisconsin does not suffer from the same issues with population decline as does Western MN, the Dakotas (historically, although the recent energy boom has changed that), or states like Nebraska.

    It’s really difficult to draw a comparison to a state like Wisconsin or Iowa – MN’s higher education system is hugely different. Nebraska’s enrollments are indeed dropping, and they demographically are closer to MN in terms of population loss than Wisconsin.

    Does this fully explain the enrollment drop at SCSU? No. There is no one thing. It is partially the result of long term recruiting failure. Partially the result of population shifts. Partially the result of increased competition from for-profit and 2 year schools (note that STCC is up). Partially the result of arcane transfer rules…and so on.

    I’d take some issue with this notion that there MUST be an enrollment plan (as in some document). Since Saffari’s departure, SCSU has developed the tools to better understand our incoming students, to better understand why (and when) they decide to apply and enroll, and in some cases, why they aren’t enrolling. Simultaneously, SCSU has made some key hires in areas that require immediate attention. Silence criticizes Potter about changing the number of at-risk students enrolled, but that’s no small item. These are expensive students who have poor retention rates and who enjoy limited (or no) success. They drop out – finding life at the university too challenging. Is it ok for us to artificially boost enrollment by admitting students who won’t ever graduate? Or is it better to implement tools that will help them become good students?

    Potter, as the President, certainly deserves scrutiny. But I’m not entirely sure why there needs to be three or four postings that all agree with the central message of the original story – that enrollments are down. Like the leader of the faculty union said, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and fix this problem.

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