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Enrollment Decline Denial
by Silence Dogood

When first pressed about SCSU’s declining enrollment, President Potter declined to even acknowledge that enrollment was declining because the headcount enrollment was not declining by a significant amount. Although he should have known better, one can understand how President Potter could have been deceived when looking at the fall headcount enrollment. The data in the figure below is from the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness.

If you chose to look at the change from Fall 2012 to Fall 2013, the headcount enrollment declined only 154 students, which translates into a decline of 0.9%

The data in the table below is from the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness.

Unfortunately, headcount is not what pays the bills.

The reason why President should have known better is also available from the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness. The figure shows SCSU’s FYE enrollment from FY00 through FY14.

Also on the website of the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness is a table showing the raw data, a part of which is reproduced below. The bold number is the total FYE enrollment, the number below it is the undergraduate FYE enrollment and the bottom number is the graduate FYE enrollment.

Additionally, there is a figure showing the year-to-year changes, a part of which is reproduced below.

The data clearly shows that for Fall 2011, headcount enrollment was down 5.6%, the FYE enrollment for FY12 was down 6.9%. Similarly, for Fall 2012, while headcount enrollment was down 3.9%, FYE enrollment for FY13 was down 6.4%. Lastly, for Fall 2013, headcount enrollment was down 0.9%, but FYE enrollment for FY14 was down 5.1%. While it’s easy to understand why the St. Cloud Times might not understand the difference between headcount and FYE enrollments, President Potter and his management team should.

Only responding during the fourth year of enrollment declines over 5%, clearly demonstrates President Potter was fooled by headcount enrollments or simply asleep at the helm. At UW-Eau Claire, headcount enrollment is down this fall by 2.1% (two week numbers) but expected only to be down 1.5% for the final fall numbers and the administration is trying to analyze what has caused a 1.5% decline to see if they can quickly reverse the decline.

SCSU’s FYE enrollment from FY08 through FY15 is shown in the following figure.

The FYE enrollment for FY15 assumes a 5.5% decline for the year. This summer’s FYE enrollment was down 10.1% from the previous summer. This fall’s FYE enrollment is currently down over 7% when compared to final fall enrollment numbers but only down 6% when compared to year-to-date numbers. As a result, assuming a drop of only 5.5% may actually underestimate the amount of decline.

With an FYE enrollment of 11,700 for FY15, SCSU will have lost 3,396 FYE since FY10, which represents a decline of 22.5%. Significant enrollment changes are hard to bring about quickly and the ‘institutional inertia’ will likely mean enrollments will continue down for the next few years. Last March, the Data Analytics Group projected enrollment for FY16 to be down 2.3% and FY17 to be down 1.3%. Given the significant underestimation of the enrollment declines the past two years, one can assume the declines will likely be double their estimates. Using declines of 4.6% for FY16 and 2.6% for FY17, SCSU will have an FYE enrollment in May 2017 of 10,872 FYE. If true, the enrollment decline from FY10 would be an astounding 28.0%.

While enrollment projections that far into the future may have only a little more reliability than the Farmer’s Almanac and long-range hurricane predictions, it certainly is sobering and depressing to think that the enrollment is headed to numbers under 11,000 FYE, lows last seen in the early 1980’s, which is almost 35 years.

3 Responses to “Exposing Potter’s denials”

  • walter hanson says:

    Gary:

    I think what must be protecting Potter is that he is a democrat. I mean if a Republican had done this he will be asked to be talking to a House or Senate committee everyday. Maybe even the governor. Oh I forgot the only person in Minnesota who pays attention less than Potter is Governor Mark Dayton.

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

  • Gary Gross says:

    Potter plays both sides so he’s covered whoever wins. It isn’t that Potter doesn’t pay attention. It’s that he makes crappy decisions, then insists that everything is going wonderful.

  • Crimson Trace says:

    A 5 year consecutive decline of 22.5% is anything but wonderful. That isn’t consistent with other MnSCU universities or comparable universities. That isn’t right sizing. It’s a full blown crisis. An $8 to $10 million budget deficit isn’t going to help, either.

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