Are The Students At SCSU Getting Younger?
by Silence Dogood

On the website for the Office of Strategy, Planning & Effectiveness, you can find the 30th Day Enrollment Profile for each fall semester going back to Fall 2005. A copy of the Fall 2014 30th Day Enrollment Profile is reproduced below.

The 30th day profile gives some information about the makeup of the students at SCSU. If you look back at the 30th Day Enrollment Profiles for prior years and mine the data for the percentage of students “Under 18,” you obtain the following figure:

Interestingly, the percentage of students Under 18 has increased from 6.0% in Fall’05 to 16.6% in Fall’14, which corresponds to an increase of 177%! What can explain this trend?

Some New Entering Freshmen (NEF) enroll in college before they are 18 years old, so an increase in the numbers of NEF might explain the increase in the percentage of students under 18. The following figure shows the number of NEF from Fall’09 through Fall’14:

From 2,390 in Fall’09 to 1,682 in Fall’14 is a decrease of 710 NEF and corresponds to a 29.7% decline, which if anything should decrease the percentage of students under 18. Clearly, the number of NEF cannot explain the growth in the percentage of students under 18.

As part of the Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO), in a program called Concurrent Enrollment (CE) [or Senior to Sophomore (S2S) at SCSU], high school students can receive college credit for their high school classes. The following figure shows the number of high school students enrolled at SCSU during fall semester.

The growth from 1,501 in Fall’07 to 3,300 in Fall’13 is a growth of 1,799 students and represents a growth of 119.9%! Since most high school students are under 18 at the beginning of fall in their senior year, this likely accounts for the increase in the percentage of students under 18.

It is also interesting to note that this program is not limited to high school seniors; currently students in grades 10 and 11 are also eligible to participate. Additionally, legislation currently before the Minnesota Legislature this legislative session seeks to expand the program to include students in grade 9. It’s quite likely all of the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students would be under 18. As a result, any expansion of the CE program will likely lead to an even larger percentage of SCSU students under 18.

In the First HUSKYDATA Newsletter released last fall, one of the points made was that the enrollment is reported at three different times during the semester: The 10th Day, the 30th Day, and the End of Term. It was also pointed out that the enrollment increases from the 10th Day, the 30th Day, and the End of Term as illustrated by one of their figures reproduced below:

Here’s the link for the HUSKYDATA Newsletter.

The later enrolling students come principally from three sources. Some classes only meet part of the term, some graduate classes do not start at the beginning of the semester, and some of the high school students receiving college credit for high school classes (CE). The largest of these by far is the category of high school students. The largest increase comes between the 10th day enrollment and the 30th day enrollment. Although hard to clearly see in the figure, in Fall’13, the increase from the 30th Day enrollment (orange) to the Final enrollment (grey) looks to be about 600 students. Not to be accused of inflating the numbers let’s say the increase is 500 students. Assuming that all of these students were under 18, it would add 500 to the number of students for Fall’13 under 18 (2,603) bringing the total to 3,103 and increase the total number of students for Fall’13 (16,245) to 16,745. As a result, for Fall’13, the percentage of students under 18 now increases from 16.0% to 18.5%.

While this might at first seem to be a small increase, an increase of 2.5% for the percentage of students under 18 for Fall’14 would push the number over 20% of the students on campus during fall semester. Since these students are receiving college credit for courses in their high schools, many of them do not set foot on the SCSU campus. As a result, since 1 out of 5 students is really not on the SCSU campus, it is easy to understand why the growth from 6% to 20% would lead to a large number of empty classrooms on campus and triggered the administration to discuss reducing the campus’s ‘footprint.’

Is anyone going to argue that most 9th, 10th, and 11th graders are really doing college-level work in their high schools? When you recognize the financial incentives for parents to have their children participate in concurrent enrollment, it won’t be long before almost all high school students graduate from high school with a high school diploma and a two-year AA degree. In fact, most colleges and universities finish their spring terms before the end of the high school year, these dual degree students will actually graduate with their AA degree BEFORE receiving their high school diploma!

What seems like a pretty good deal for students and parents—essentially two years of free college tuition has financial consequences for four-year universities that are devastating! Essentially, at the university, CE amounts to as much as a 90% discount in what is charged for students. As a result, parents will ‘encourage’ their children to take advantage of this cost savings. As a result, traditional first-year college students will become nearly extinct! Given this kind of an economic disincentive for universities, it’s not likely that the traditional university will survive this kind of economic challenge.

Organisms must adapt or die. Much the same thing can be said about organizations. In SCSU’s case however, since SCSU is the second largest MnSCU University participating in concurrent enrollment, SCSU is essentially hastening its own demise under the guise of “change.” As a result of increasing numbers of students earning AA degrees while in high school, the traditional four-year university will be reduced to largely teaching the final two years with large numbers of ‘transfer’ students and a few traditional freshmen. Who says change has to be good?

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