Fall Enrollment—Down, Down, Down!
by Silence Dogood

The following figure shows the fall FYE enrollment for the MnSCU universities from Fall 2007 through Fall 2014.

It is nearly impossible to read the values for each of the columns because the enrollment changes are small enough that the numbers overlap. SCSU is the exception. SCSU’s numbers are easy to read because the decline in enrollment from Fall 2010 is so large that the numbers are clearly visible!

The numbers in the figure are current as of September 17, 2014. There is some enrollment still to be added due to concurrent enrollment. Concurrent enrollment is when students receive both high school and college credit for courses. At SCSU, there are two kinds of concurrent enrollment. PSEO where high school students attend classes at SCSU and Senior-to-Sophomore (S2S) where high school teachers instruct students in high school classes (working with a mentor faculty member at SCSU) and the students get both high school and college credit.

The following figure shows the one-year change in FYE enrollment for the MnSCU universities from Fall 2013 to Fall 2014.

Clearly, there is a lot of ‘red’ ink in the Figure indicating declining enrollments. Once again, these are not final enrollments. For some universities, like Winona that does not have a significant number of concurrent enrollment students, their enrollment number is pretty well locked in.

Looking at Moorhead, the figure shows that enrollment is currently down 6.25%. Since Moorhead underwent a 10% reduction in faculty and staff last spring, you certainly might expect enrollments to be down this fall simply because there are 10% fewer faculty and staff on campus and as a result fewer courses being offered.

Southwest, which has historically had the largest number of concurrently enrolled students will likely add additional FYE of concurrent enrollment so that they may only be down a small amount when the final fall numbers are finalized.

For the universities showing significant declines, that leaves only SCSU. Currently, enrollment at SCSU is down 7.89% FYE from Fall 2013. Some concurrent enrollment is already included in this number but there is still quite a bit of concurrent enrollment (mostly S2S) still to be added so SCSU might well reach the administration’s revised prediction of a 4 to 5% decline.

I’m pretty sure that if SCSU’s enrollment decline is only 4 to 5% that there will not be a press release bragging that SCSU’s enrollment drop is second only to Moorhead where 10% of the faculty and staff are gone from a year ago. Because of declining enrollments at SCSU, the administration has announced the need to reduce this year’s budget by $8,000,000-$10,000,000. As a consequence, President Potter has already announced a “Flexible Hiring Freeze” on his own. As a result, “non-essential” vacant positions will remain unfilled in an attempt to save money. Who knows whom, if anyone, is going to do the work that these people would have done. Clearly, some departments are going to be ‘sharing in the pain’ because some of this work needs to be done.

Looking at the overall budget and the percentage of the budget that is dedicated to faculty and staff, it’s hard to imagine that the budget can be reduced by $8,000,000-$10,000,000 without reductions in faculty and staff. In 2010, during “reorganization,” $14,000,000 was cut from the budget and 30 staff and 64 faculty positions were eliminated. In addition another 48 faculty FTE became available for conversion from tenured positions to part time and other short-term employment as a result of retirement and resignation in the last three fiscal years. With so many positions cut four years ago and with the shift to short-term lower cost faculty employees it is hard to believe that there is much left to cut.

An expectation on campus is that simplistic solutions like across the board cuts, a flexible hiring freeze and wishful thinking that the declining enrollment trend can be reversed in one year will simply result in kicking the problem down the road. Since actions were not taken in FY12, FY13 or FY14 to deal with enrollment declines of 5.9%, 5.4%, and 5.1%, respectively, draconian cuts will now be required to deal with another 4-5% enrollment decline this year or the financial hole will only get larger going forward.

It might not be too much to ask for an Enrollment Management Plan, which states what the ‘right size’ is for SCSU so financial plans that will reverse the deficit spending can be developed. Faculty, staff, students and the community deserve to know.

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