Understanding The Enrollment Downturn?
by Silence Dogood

What can only be described as a final act of desperation, the SCSU administration distributed a PowerPoint presentation produced by the Education Advisory Board (EAB), which describes itself as “one of the largest providers of research, technology, and consulting services to colleges and universities nationwide.” The presentation is entitled

It’s a slick attempt to justify why SCSU’s enrollment is declining. For those who have been listening, they know that it is simply another attempt by the SCSU administration to say: “We’re down because everyone else is down.” Unfortunately, for those who are actually aware of the data, it’s just simply “hogwash!”

The following figure shows MnSCU data for FYE enrollments from FY2003 through FY2014 (the actual final numbers), plus each university’s own predictions for enrollment for FY2015, FY2016 and FY2017.

Only two universities in the MnSCU system could be labeled as being “in decline” and they are Minnesota State University—Moorhead and SCSU. From FY10 to the prediction for FY17, Moorhead’s decline of 1,072 FYE represents a decline of 15.9%. For the same time period, SCSU’s decline of 3,871 FYE represents a decline of 25.3%! It is also interesting to note that Moorhead actually predicts an enrollment ‘bottom’ for FY16 followed in FY17 by an increase of 96 FYE. On the other hand, SCSU’s prediction for FY17 continues the enrollment slide from FY16 losing an additional 195 FYE.

In looking more closely at the data, Minnesota State University—Mankato and Winona are predicting stable enrollment from FY16 to FY17. Bemidji, Metropolitan, MUSM—Moorhead, and Southwest all predict modest growth from FY16 to FY17. From MnSCU’s data, only SCSU is projecting a continuing decline for FY17.

Unfortunately, rather than trying to actually solve their enrollment nightmare, SCSU has hired another consultant to tell us that it’s not our fault that our enrollment is declining because “everyone’s enrollment is declining.” MnSCU’s data and record enrollment at the University of Wisconsin—Stout clearly indicate that the decline at SCSU is of its own making. There is no other way to put it than to say SCSU has made a host of bad decisions that have led to a significant decline in its market share as compared to all of the other MnSCU universities.

The continuing decline in enrollment has led to a budget deficit for SCSU of $9,542,000 for FY15. It’s really a shame that the SCSU administration continues to spend money on consultants to “Understand the Enrollment Downturn.” Certainly, that money might have been better spent on strategies to actually increase enrollment, which is something that might actually help solve the ongoing budget crisis.

5 Responses to “Understanding SCSU’s Enrollment Decline”

  • walter hanson says:


    I assume those high price consultants didn’t bother to figure out how much that drop is associated with the ending of the aviation program. Adding the aviation program back in might cause the decline to go away by itself.

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

  • Patrick-M says:

    Walter I like how you think. I have been monitoring Mankato’s numbers for Aviation classes and it appears they really haven’t had much of a boost – one would think they should be at least 1.5 X for classes compared to other years. My guess is that Midwest students are going to ND, SD and Illinois.

  • Me says:

    SCSU didn’t spend money on the EAB consultants. The MnSCU system office paid for the consultants and SCSU just shared some of the info the consultants shared with the system office.

    I just thought it would be good to clarify this for you.

  • Silence Dogood says:

    There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Someone paid for the consultants. If MnSCU distributed the money to each of the members, rather than paying for another consultant, it might have done more good.

  • Reader3 says:

    With some Board presentations from 2013 suggesting at adding more capacity in the Metro area, did anyone else notice the 1500 student increase at Metropolitan State? I’m inclined to think that with opening of the second campus there is some favoritism toward a larger Metro MNSCU university.

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