The Truth About Part-Time Students!
by Silence Dogood

In St. Cloud State University’s FY15 Financial Recovery Plan to the Campus Community dated January 28, 2015, President Potter in his Executive Summary states:

“SCSU’s student population includes more part-time students than many of its peers …”.

Let’s look at this statement, first to see if it is true and, secondly, if it can be blamed for the financial meltdown at SCSU.

If you look at MnSCU’s FY2017-FY2017 Legislative Request to the Minnesota Legislature, each university has a page, which contains data specific to that university. Reproduced below is the page for SCSU.

On each university’s page, the percentage of full-time and part-time students is listed. The percentage of part-time students is shown for each MnSCU University in the following figure:

From the figure, it is clear that there is a wide range in the percentage of part-time students at the various MnSCU Universities. Metro has a very large number of part-time students because of the large number of evening classes and programs designed specifically for part-time students.

For the sake of simplifying this discussion, I’m going to limit our consideration to SCSU, Mankato, Winona and Southwest, which are the three largest universities in MnSCU as well as the smallest.

The definition of a part-time student is any student who takes less than 12 credits in an academic term. Additionally, because the number of part-time students is always significantly greater in the summer than during fall and spring semesters, summer will be excluded from consideration so that it will not bias the results.

The following table contains the total number of Full Year Equivalent (FYE) enrollment for FY14 (subtracting summer) as well as the number of FYE generated by Concurrent Enrollment (CE).

When President Potter wants to blame SCSU’s financial difficulties on the increasing number of part-time students, all he has to do is look at the growth of Post Secondary enrollment at his university under his watch. Since President Potter’s arrival in Fall’07 until Fall’13, the CE enrollment has only grown by 120%. From its peak in Fall 2010 to Fall 2013 the overall FYE enrollment during fall semester has dropped by 15.4%, which represents the three-year drop in fall enrollment.

Until now, with President Potter’s blessing, CE grew at an almost exponential rate. The latest financial data released shows that CE accounts for approximately 8% of the FYE generated at SCSU and at the same time generated a total of $400,000 in profit from tuition. The return on investment (ROI) for CE is probably not outstanding but it did make money and generate FYE.

Ultimately, CE students generate a positive cash flow to the university of $400,000 and helped increase the overall FYE by 580 in Fall’13. At 5.9 CE students per FYE, 580 FYE represents approximately 3,422 students. Consequently, with it taking nearly six CE students to equal a traditional on campus student FYE, in growing the CE program, the percentage of part-time students simply has to increase.

The simple question to President Potter: If a higher percentage of part-time students is a problem, in order to lower the percentage of part-time students, do you really want to give up $400,000 and 580 FYE? Unfortunately, the $400,000 is needed to help pay the $1,300,000 being lost this year on the failed Coborn’s Plaza Apartments so the answer is probably no. The other obvious solution is to grow the number of new entering freshmen and new entering transfer students, which would lower the percentage of part-time students AND increase the overall FYE enrollment.

If a proper data analysis is done and the effect of the CE students (and summer) is removed, I’d just about give odds that the percentage of part-time students has not changed significantly over the past ten years. However, as SCSU’s ship is sinking, it seems that it is more important for the administration to find someone or something to blame rather than admit to having run the ship up onto the rocks themselves. The path out of SCSU’s financial meltdown is to recruit and bring in more NEF and NET students to replace the 927 NEF and NET lost between Fall 2010 and Fall 2013. “Innovation” may sound good but it really seems more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic than anything else.

One Response to “SCSU’s part-time students myth”

  • Crimson Trace says:

    Full time new entering freshmen and transfer students are the bread and butter of any university when it comes to revenue.

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