Spring Enrollment Omen?
by Silence Dogood

Periodically throughout the semester, Jered Magsam, a Data Analyst in the Office of Strategy, Planning and Effectiveness, provides weekly progress reports about admissions for SCSU. The data gives a year-to-date comparison with the prior year.

Depending on the time of the report, the information can be more or less useful. Right now the report shows that applications for Fall 2015 are up considerably.

Not much analysis of the data is necessary. Compared to this fall, applications to SCSU are up 36.18% compared to the previous fall. Will this increase in applications actually result in an increase in enrollment next fall is anyone’s guess. The signs are hopeful but don’t bet the house on increased enrollment. As an example, consider the Minnesota Vikings went through the recent preseason undefeated winning all four games but I don’t think too many people actually made their reservations for the Super Bowl next spring, which by the way will happen long before classes begin next fall.

Much closer is spring semester. The data for Spring 2015 is shown below.

Fewer students enter college in the spring semester so the number of applications is typically considerably smaller. However, for a year-to-year comparison, applications are down 6.7%. Clearly, this is a small number of students so the change of even a couple of students could change the percentages significantly.

The numbers of transfer students entering mid-year is typically larger than the number of First Year Students. The numbers reported are shown below.

With a larger number of transfer students, the numbers might be more reliable. However, it is interesting to note that both the number of First Year Students and Transfer Students are down by similar percentages, 6.7% and 5.6%, respectively. These numbers don’t bode well for spring semester.

The data shows that while the number of applications for spring semester for First Year Students are down 6.7%, the number of admission offers are down 9.3%. This might be a sign that admission standards are being raised or that fewer qualified students are applying. However, no data has been presented by the administration to support or contradict this conjecture.

The data also shows that while the numbers of applications for spring semester for Transfer Students are down 5.6%, the number of admission offers are up 5.3%. This might mean that transfer admissions are being loosened or that higher quality students are transferring. Again, no data has been presented to support either hypothesis.

While there is still just over three months before the start of Spring semester classes and more First Year Students and Transfer Students will continue to apply and be offered admission, it appears that the trends in new enrollments will have very little effect on the overall enrollment numbers. The obvious reason for this is quite simple; the vast majority of the FYE for spring semester comes from retention of fall semester students. Consider that for Spring Semester, according to the Spring 2014 Weekly Admit Report as of January 31, 2014, there were 834 admission offers and 505 eventual enrollments for a yield rate of offer to enrollment of 60.6%. This yield rate is much higher than for fall semester and without historical data doesn’t tell us much. If the yield rate for the prior year was 40%, I’m sure there would be corks popping in the Admission Office. However, if the rate had be 80% the prior year, silence would have been the more likely scenario.

Ultimately, how important is 505 students? From the 30th Day enrollment data, last spring SCSU had a headcount enrollment of 13,550 (134 NEF and 371 NET), which translates into 3.7%. So if the NEF/NET headcount had been 10% higher than it actually was the enrollment would have increased a whopping 0.37%! Of course, if 3.7% of the enrollment was NEF/NET, then 96.27% of the spring enrollment is returning students. The 30th Day Enrollment for SCSU showed a decline of 6.2% FYE so even confusing headcount enrollment with FYE enrollment, the effect of the NEF/NET numbers on Spring enrollment is very small.

It’s a shame that no data on retention rates from fall semester to spring semester has been presented. If returning students represent more than 96% of the headcount enrollment in spring semester, it just might be more important to look at these rates rather than focus on the 3.7% of the total enrollment. An old English proverb comes to mind: “Penny wise and pound (dollar) foolish.” Essentially, it seems that we are focusing on the small parts of the enrollment while overlooking the largest part. It might not be the best analogy but it seems to tie quite nicely into the administration’s fascination with headcount enrollments rather than the much more important FYE enrollments.

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