Bad Data? Or Just Bad Data Analysis?
by Silence Dogood

One of the main points of the PowerPoint presentation “Understanding the Enrollment Downturn” by the Educational Advisory Board is that the enrollment at SCSU is down because the enrollment is down throughout the MnSCU system. One of the main ways that they chose to demonstrate this decline is by using one of MnSCU’s own figures showing the total FYE enrollment in the MnSCU system.

This figure was prepared before the final FYE enrollment was known for FY2014. The actual FY2014 FYE enrollment was 144,524 so the decline in FYE enrollment from the peak in FY11 to FY14 was 13,379, which corresponds to a system-wide drop of 8.5%. Based on this figure, you might expect that all of the members of the MnSCU system are experiencing a decline in enrollment.

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

Clearly, the figure shows that there was an enrollment peak in FY2011 followed by a steady decline. The decline in FYE enrollment from FY11 to FY14 was 3,817 FYE, which corresponds to a drop of 6.5%. As a result, since the MnSCU universities make up only about a third of the total MnSCU enrollment, if the total enrollment decline in the MnSCU system was 8.5%, the enrollment decline in the Community Colleges and Technical Colleges in the MnSCU system had to be on order of 9.5%. Thus from FY11 to FY14, the MnSCU universities were doing ‘better’ than the MnSCU Community Colleges and Technical Colleges as far as enrollment is concerned. As a result, a better comparison might have been to compare SCSU with the enrollment at the universities within the MnSCU system rather than the total MnSCU system enrollment.

Over the same time period that the FYE enrollment at the MnSCU universities dropped 6.5%, SCSU’s FYE enrollment dropped 17.3%. As a result, SCSU’s drop in enrollment greatly increased the percentage drop of the MnSCU universities. From FY11 to FY14, the MnSCU universities dropped 3,817 FYE. SCSU alone, during this same time period, dropped 2,595 FYE, which means that SCSU was responsible for 68.0% of the total drop within the MnSCU universities!

In FY14, SCSU generated 22.5% of the FYE enrollment for the MnSCU universities but was responsible for 68.0% of the FYE decline for the MnSCU universities from FY11 to FY14. As a result, SCSU was responsible for more than three times the enrollment decline than the comparable FYE enrollment percentage that it generated.

In other words, from FY11 to FY14, SCSU’s enrollment decline was the largest source of decline of the MnSCU universities by a wide margin and SCSU declined more than the other six MnSCU universities combined! Occasionally, you will hear the statement “Go big or go home.” In this case, if SCSU keeps going ‘big’ there won’t be a home to go to.

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