Just Make Up The Numbers As You Go Along
by Silence Dogood

At the Meet and Confer held on Thursday, February 5, 2015, President Potter praised the accuracy of the Data Analytics Group’s enrollment projection–specifically stating that they were only a few students away from the projected unduplicated headcount enrollment of over 19,500 students. Unfortunately, President Potter is mistaken because the enrollment projections deal with FYE enrollment, not headcount, which perhaps is a small (but important) detail.

The figure below is reproduced from the website for the Office of Strategy, Planning and Research:

As stated, it is a day-to-day comparison of the FYE enrollment for each term in FY15. The middle table shows the enrollment projections compared with the current enrollment for the corresponding term. Since Summer 2014 and Fall 2014 are now final enrollment numbers, the only number that can change is the current term—Spring 2015. With the 30th Day Enrollment approaching, the numbers will increase by only a small amount as the rest of the Senior-to-Sophomore students for Spring Semester are registered.

Clearly, the middle table shows that the projection for the year is within 7 FYE of the current enrollment. In fact, the current enrollment is 7 FYE higher than the projected enrollment. Unfortunately, all of this fails to recognize that the Data Analytics Group’s original enrollment projection, the number upon which the budget was based last May, was for a 3.2% decline.

The administration wants everyone to believe that AFTER Summer 2014, when the enrollment was 15 FYE higher than projected, it was necessary to increase the projected decline from 3.2% to a decline of 4-5%. What’s more likely is that the Summer 2014 enrollment was far below their projection and the Fall Semester registration last April and the new first-year student orientation numbers during the summer were below expectations so that it was clear that the fall enrollment was going to be declining more than 3.2%. Clearly, it is illogical to believe that if the summer enrollment was actually larger than the enrollment projection that it was necessary to increase the projected decline.

What you see here is an example of revisionist history. The enrollment projections were simply changed to suit the desired outcome. In September, the administration issued a revised projection for a decline of 4-5% and, like back-dating a check, were made to appear as if they were the original projection. This is quite clear when you look at the final table, where the enrollment projections are compared with last year’s final enrollment number, it clearly shows a projected decline of 5.2%. The obvious question is why would the administration repeatedly say that the ‘revised’ enrollment projection in September was for a decline of 4-5% when if it is to be believed that the last table was “Based on projection generated on May 6, 2014?”

If the administration was projecting a decline of 4-5%, you might expect to see the data in the table show a projected decline of 4.5%, which is in the middle of the projected decline—not 5.2%, which is outside of the projection’s range. This simply doesn’t make sense unless you live in Wonderland. However, many strange things seem to happen at SCSU. After losing $6,400,000 in the first four years of operation, in an interview with the St. Cloud Times editorial board last February, President Potter stated that Coborn’s Plaza was a “success.” The follow up question should have been “Just how do you define success?”

The three public enrollment projections for FY15 were for declines of 3.2%, 4-5% and 5.2%. Just like a stopped watch is right twice a day, given enough guesses, I’m sure President Potter will eventually end up with a projection that matches the actual outcome and he can feel good about the accuracy of the Data Analytics Group’s projections. Too bad, random chance is just as likely to be right.

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