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Spring Semester Is Wasting Away! Part 2
by Silence Dogood

The enrollment decline at SCSU for the past five years has been well documented. From the website of the Office of Strategy, Planning and Research you can find the following figure:

For Summer 2014, the enrollment was 918 FYE. For Fall 2014, the enrollment was 5,815 FYE. For Spring 2015, the enrollment is currently 5,025 FYE. That gives a total of 11,758 FYE for FY 2015. There is some enrollment still to occur from high schools students, which may bring the enrollment to the administration’s spring projection of 5,033 or even slightly higher. Being charitable, I expect the final FY15 enrollment to settle just under 11,800 FYE. Using a final enrollment of 11,800 FYE for FY15, the enrollment drop from FY10 is 3,296 FYE and represents a five-year decline of 21.8%.

When you look at the enrollment change from Fall Semester to Spring Semester, there has always been a drop off. The following plot shows the percent change in FYE enrollment from Fall to the following Spring Semester:

Overall enrollment has been dropping but this plot shows that even when SCSU enrolls a student in the fall, the rate at which students are not retuning for Spring semester is increasing substantially more than doubling in five years. As a result, bringing in more students in the fall won’t necessarily solve the enrollment problem unless SCSU can’t retain higher percentages of them in future semesters.

In “12-Step Programs,” the first step is to admit there is a problem. For years, as the enrollment was in a nosedive, the administration kept saying that they were “right sizing” the university. After that failed, next came the need to “innovate and grow our programs.” Without saying so, this was an admission that SCSU must have overshot the “right size” whatever it was. The third stage has been to try to blame demographics, part-time students, the economy, the wrong kind of housing or anything that might be used to try to deflect responsibility for the staggering decline relative to the other MnSCU universities.

Unfortunately, the cash that was stashed as a result of the cuts during reorganization is almost gone and without substantial cuts for FY16 (10-12 million) and FY 17 (5-8 million) totaling something between $15,000,000-$20,000,000, SCSU will be going to MnSCU for a loan that must be repaid in FY18 and beyond with excess revenue to expense. Perhaps when the cuts start piling up and it turns out that even more cuts have to be made, people will recognize that there really is trouble in ‘River City’ and that trouble is not pool but it might rhyme with ā€œPā€. Apologies to Robert Preston.

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3 Responses to “Demographics vs. right-sizing?”

  • Crimson Trace says:

    What good is recruitment when retention is ignored?

  • Rex Newman says:

    I know something of the boiler room (“steak knives”) recruiting that goes on throughout higher ed these days. No doubt the pressure is on in view of these charts, which no doubt brings in some tentative, academically marginal, financially strapped students in the fall. It proves harder than high school – why, they might have to read an entire book. Disappointed grades are posted, even with grade inflation (Does SCSU do this, too?). Money gets tighter still. And they’re done or off to a cheaper, easier alternative.

    The problem is not Spring retention. It is poor Fall recruiting – both the gross and the net.

  • Rex Newman says:

    Or – said another way – the Fall numbers are much softer than the Spring numbers. Year to year comparisons should really be on the basis of adequate yearly progress at the end of each academic year.

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