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Dick Andzenge’s monthly column was valuable in that it caused me to rethink what drives a university’s enrollment. Here’s what got me thinking this through:

To some students, the location, cost and availability of desired programs are primary reasons for choosing universities. Any change in these three can affect their decisions. To some students, the reputation of particular programs or university is the major determining factor.

Simply drifting through the university without learning does not build the university’s reputation. If institutional reputation is that important in recruitment and retention, then those of us who work for the university are the institutions’ ambassadors.

While each of those things are legitimate and important considerations, there’s more to it than that. For instance, if campus morale is low, both with the faculty and with students, there’s no question that morale will have a negative impact on enrollment. To that point, there’s no question that on-campus morale is low. The Great Place to Work Institute’s Trust Index Survey yielded told us that:

Only 26% of survey respondents agreed that “We’re all in this togther.” What’s worse is that only 21% of survey respondents agreed that there’s a “family or team feeling” at St. Cloud State.

Professors and staff whose morale is low won’t recommend St. Cloud State to their neighbors or their family. While it’s impossible to specifically quantify how much that affects St. Cloud State enrollment, there can’t be any doubt that it’s having a negative impact.

Why would anyone want to enroll at a university that’s run by president whose policies are more ad hoc than they are well thought through policies?

The Great Place to Work Institute Trust Index Survey blindsided President Potter. Multiple people in the room described President Potter’s facial expression as being stone-faced and filled with disbelief. That’s what happens when a president lives in a bubble, insulated from the realities of his decisions.

There’s no question that word’s gotten out that President Potter hasn’t always exhibited the type of poise you’d expect from a university president. I wrote about one of President Potter’s temper tantrums in this post. That type of outburst isn’t the type of thing that’ll tell potential students that SCSU is the place they’d like to enroll at.

Another factor that can’t help but impact St. Cloud State’s enrollment is the reputation of the various programs. Right now, St. Cloud State’s academic reputation isn’t exactly soaring. When SCSU spends more than $400,000 on rebranding the University, that’s an indication it isn’t doing well.

When the University spends more than $400,000 on rebranding and all it gets is “Think. Do. Make a difference.” for a slogan, people naturally find it difficult to take that institute of higher learning seriously.

There’s nothing in St. Cloud State’s advertising that makes them stand out. There’s nothing in word-of-mouth advertising that’s telling potential students that SCSU is a great place to learn career skills.

If President Potter’s leadership, decisionmaking and attitude don’t change, the downward cycle SCSU’s in will continue until he retires or he’s fired. The minute he leaves and is replaced by someone who’s a real leader with a coherent plan, SCSU will return to being a university of choice.

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