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You Might Start Calling Them The ‘Good Old Days’
by Silence Dogood

The following figure shows the total New Entering Freshman (NEF) and New Entering Transfer (NET) headcount enrollments for SCSU from Fall’07 to Fall’14. The data for Fall’07 through Fall’13 comes from the website for the Office of Strategy, Planning and Effectiveness. The data for Fall’14 is current as of the fourth day of school.

While some might like to say that it looks like the rate of decline is decreasing, from Fall’07 to Fall’14, over this time period enrollment has dropped by 1,158 students and represents a drop of 30.0%! Let me say that again, the combined NEF and NET enrollments are down 30.0% from Fall’07 to Fall’14!

If you look at the NEF and NET data separately, you obtain the following figure:

The data for NET shows that for Fall’08 there was a substantial drop in transfers from the prior year. However, the number rebounded in Fall’09. Omitting Fall’08, the NET enrollment shows a nearly linear decline. From Fall’07 to Fall’14 the drop is 460 students and represents a drop of 31.1%. NEF show essentially a constant level from Fall’07 to Fall’09, which is then followed by a nearly stepwise decline. From Fall’08 to Fall’14, the drop is 719 students and represents a drop of 29.9%. The data shows that BOTH NET and NEF enrollments are down by almost the same percentage!

The Minnesota Legislature created the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) program in 1985, which allowed juniors and seniors still in high school to earn college credits. The following figure shows the fall enrollment of PSEO students at SCSU from Fall’05 through Fall’13.

The growth of the PSEO enrollments from Fall’05 to Fall’13 is nothing short of spectacular! The increase in enrollment is 2,396 and represents a growth of 265%! If the goal is to increase the number of students involved in the PSEO program, John Burgerson, Dean of Continuing Studies is nothing short of a miracle worker!

The PSEO data for Fall’14 will not be final until the end of the semester. However, even for Fall’13, it is clear that the headcount enrollment for PSEO is substantially larger than that for the sum of the NEF and NET headcounts (3,300 vs. 2,775). As a result, the decline in NEF and NET has been masked by the growth in the number of PSEO students. This is clearly evident in the following figure showing the combined NEF/NET enrollment, PSEO enrollment, and the sum of the two.

The figure clearly shows that the NEF/NET enrollments are dropping at the same time the PSEO enrollments are growing. In Fall’12, the PSEO enrollment and the combined NET and NEF enrollments are within four students of each other! As shown in the figure, when the two are added together, the growth in PSEO clearly swamps the drop in the NEF/NET numbers. In fact, it looks as if the enrollment is continuing to grow. From Fall’07 to Fall’13 the overall ‘growth’ in enrollment is 641 students and represents an increase of 11.9%. But a student is a student is a student. Right?

The only problem with this data is that headcount enrollment and FYE enrollments aren’t the same thing. Furthermore, budgets are based on FYE enrollments. It takes almost six high school students to equal one full-time student. By mixing headcount enrollments with FYE enrollments, the administration has been able to hide a disturbing enrollment trend. The only thing I’ve learned over the years is that administrators like to talk about headcount enrollments because a) they’re always bigger than FYE enrollments and b) the press doesn’t know enough to ask about the FYE enrollment numbers so the true budget picture remains hidden.

When the final headcount enrollment number for FY15 is in next spring, compare it with the number for FY14. Don’t be surprised if the two numbers are very close to each other or if, in fact, the FY15 headcount is still larger than the FY14 headcount. One might logically ask the question why is SCSU having to cut the budget by $8,000,000-$10,000,000 this year? The simple answer is that budgets aren’t based on headcount. They are based on FYE.

In FY14, SCSU was originally planning for a 2.4% drop in FYE enrollment (later revised to 2.8%-3.2% and still later to 4.0%). At the beginning of Fall Semester, the administration again revised the drop to 5.0%. Yet despite an increase of over 100% in the projected enrollment decline, the university still had a balanced budget and did not need to make budget reductions during the year. For FY15, the administration is projecting that the enrollment will again be down in the range of 4-5% but now is proclaiming that the budget needs to be reduced by $8,000,000 – $10,000,000. Something doesn’t make sense here. How can the university be down 5.0% in FYE one year and have a balanced budget without reductions and then the next year be down by the same percentage (or less) but run a deficit of $8,000,000 – $10,000,000? The only thing that I can surmise is that a) the administration is not telling us the truth about the budget or b) they have no clue what is going on with the budget. I can’t tell you which one is worse—lying or incompetence—for me that is not much of a choice!

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One Response to “The ‘Good Old Days’?”

  • Abacus says:

    Houdini would have been proud of this administration. Its SO far past lipstick on the pig its criminal.

    There “should” be some lively discussion at the Chamber of Commerce Roundtable today as to the net effect on the Business community…key word “should”

    Narry a word will be uttered most likely as the Happy Talk bandwagon runs through, over and past the City of St Cloud. The worst is yet to come

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