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More on Projections
by Silence Dogood

On April 14, 2014, the seven MnSCU universities were required to project their final FY14 FYE enrollments and FY15 FYE enrollments. At that point in the semester, with only four weeks left in the semester, the registration numbers for FY14 should be pretty firm. The table reproduced below came from SCSU’s Office of Finance and Administration’s website:

A graphic representing the difference between the “Projected FY 2014” and the final actual FY2014 FYE enrollments (taken from MnSCU data) is shown below:

Clearly, some universities did a better job of projecting final enrollments than others. Moorhead’s, SCSU’s and Winona’s projections were significantly different than the eventual final enrollment. Remember, these are projections of the final enrollment only four weeks from the end of the semester. In the case of Moorhead, they underestimated their FY14 enrollment so at least the surprise was a good one. In the case of SCSU and Winona, the actual enrollments were significantly below their projections. Most financial people don’t like ‘surprises’ especially if they are bad ones! For SCSU, the decline of 62 FYE only represents an error of 0.5% so it might seem like ‘making a mountain out of a mole hill.’ However, clearly from the data, four universities did a better job than SCSU. Additionally, assuming that 1 FYE produces a total of $11,500 (tuition and state appropriation), 62 FYE accounts for a total of $713,000. That mole hill is beginning to look like more of a mountain!

Switching to the FY15 Projections. The data in the table also shows each university’s percent change in their enrollment from their estimated FY14 FYE enrollment as compared to their estimated FY15 FYE enrollment.

A positive value (shown in blue) indicates that a university is expecting an increase in enrollment from FY14 to FY15. A negative value (shown in red) indicates that the enrollment is expected to go down. For some universities, there is a lot of ‘red’ in the figure.

Winona was the only MnSCU university to project an increase in enrollment for FY15. Metro projected that their enrollment would remain constant in FY15. Both Bemidji and Mankato projected slight declines of 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively. Southwest projected a slightly larger decline at 1.2%. Both Moorhead and SCSU projected declines greater than 3%, which by any measure is a significant decline in enrollment.

Last year, Moorhead went through retrenchment and layoffs and reduced its faculty and staff by 10% as a result of a three-year decline in enrollment of 11.4%. As a result, you might expect to see an enrollment decline simply resulting from fewer course offerings because of having fewer faculty.

SCSU is the clear leader in projecting an enrollment decline at 3.5%. Following declines of 5.9%, 5.4% and 5.1% during the last three years, an enrollment decline of only 3.5% would be a significant improvement.

For a number of years Tom Fauchald, a Bemidji State University faculty member, has provided information about enrollments within the MnSCU system. In his latest report, he compares the FYE fall enrollments for all of the MnSCU colleges and universities. The data he presented was based on enrollment as of September 13, 2014 and was compared to the enrollment on the same date the prior year. The percent change for Fall semester at each of the MnSCU universities is shown in the following figure:

Clearly, the data shows enrollment at all of the MnSCU universities is down compared to the prior year on the same date.

A more interesting comparison might be how the enrollments compared with each of the university’s predictions. The following figure shows the difference between the projected percent enrollment (for FY15) and the percent FYE enrollment decline on September 14, 2014 (year-to-date comparison):

The red in the Figure shows that the enrollments at all of the MnSCU universities are lower than their projections. More red in the figure, the larger the decrease from a university’s projected enrollment. It is important to note that the enrollment projection made by the university was for the entire year and the enrollment data is only year-to-date enrollment data for fall semester (summer was not included and spring has yet to occur). As a result, these numbers may change. Concurrent enrollment is only significant at Southwest, SCSU and Mankato so they may see a small improvement in the enrollment numbers. However, it is not likely that the numbers will change substantially as the last of the concurrent enrollment is registered and spring semester is added.

Bemidji and Mankato seemed to do the best job at predicting their enrollments with errors of 1.0% and 0.5%, respectively. The remaining five universities all varied in their underestimation of their enrollment decline between 1.7% and 2.7%. Since SCSU is the largest of these universities, SCSU’s actual FYE decrease is much larger than any one else.

If Mankato is SCSU’s main rival, it is clear that there is a significant difference in almost every measure of recent performance. It also appears that the difference is increasing. And SCSU is not on the ‘right’ side of the changes!

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