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Summer School Redux
by Silence Dogood

On December 9, 2014, President Potter sent an email to all faculty and staff entitled “Managing our budget.” Here’s what President Potter said in his email:

Let’s look at the fourth bullet point in more detail. The following figure shows the FYE enrollment from Summer’06 through Summer’14:

Clearly, since Summer’10, the enrollment has been what can only be described as a ‘freefall.’ From Summer’10 through Summer’14, the drop of 409 FYE represents a decline of 30.9%. This fall, the enrollment at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire fell 1.5% and the administration has been holding meetings to try to understand why there was a decline AND what can be done to reverse the drop and prevent it from becoming a ‘trend.’

Summer school operates differently than the regular academic year. It may be hard to understand but despite a drop of 9.0% in FY12, and an 11.4% drop in FY13, the university actually made more money than in each of the previous summers. This can be accomplished simply by increasing class sizes and hiring lower cost faculty, both of which raise the profitability of a course. However, at some point, the declines in enrollment do translate into decreased revenue.

It is also interesting to look at the summer enrollments at the other MnSCU universities. The following figure shows FYE enrollments at all of the MnSCU universities from Summer’06 through Summer’14.

From the figure, it is clear that the three MnSCU universities with the largest summer enrollments (SCSU, Winona, and Mankato) all experienced declines in enrollment for Summer’14. The four universities with the smallest summer enrollments (Winona, Moorhead, Bemidji, and Southwest) all experienced increases in enrollment for Summer’14.

It is also clear from the Figure that SCSU was once the leader in summer enrollments by a wide margin and has now dropped to third. If the trend is extended, it won’t be too long before SCSU slips to fourth behind Winona, whose rate of growth is increasing.

The drop in summer enrollment at SCSU didn’t happen in one year, it took four years to drop 30.9%. However, it shouldn’t have taken four years to figure out that something was going wrong with the enrollment in summer school. After dropping 9.0% in Summer’11, alarm bells should have been going off in the administration building. For Summer’11, SCSU was the only MnSCU university with a decline in summer enrollment!

For Summer’12, SCSU’s decline increased to 11.4%. However, Summer’12 SCSU was not alone in declining. Moorhead led the way with a one-year decline of 17.9%! Bemidji lost 7.6%, Southwest lost 6.8%, Mankato and Winona both lost 3.3%. However, Metro was nearly flat losing only 0.2%.

Unfortunately, the SCSU administration was either unaware of the declines in the summer enrollment for 2011 and 2012 or didn’t know what to do because enrollment again dropped 5.4% for Summer’13. Although a decline, the rate of decline was half of the previous year. This in itself might have been considered a small ‘victory.’ Perhaps the administration thought the problem with declining enrollment was taking care of itself. Unfortunately, for Summer’14 the enrollment decline nearly doubled in increasing to 9.4%.

Now, after a four-year period in which enrollment has dropped 30.9%, the President announces that he’s “taking steps to revitalize our summer school enrollment.” The question that needs to be answered: Why did it take so long for President Potter to figure out there was a problem in the first place?

One Response to “President Potter’s plan”

  • Crimson Trace says:

    The decline for SCSU as indicated on the graph is steeper and scarier than the steepest roller coaster at Six Flags. This president should have been fired 3 times over by now. Where will it end? When will Rosenstone do his job and provide oversight to SCSU? Wait…he is too busy with his charting the disaster initiative while collecting no confidence resolutions.

    So Potter yelled at a minority employee to the point s/he went home sick for a couple of days? “Hands Up…Don’t Yell!” should be the new motto for his civility initiative.

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