SCSU President Earl H. Potter III’s latest op-ed contains some spin that can’t go unchallenged:

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) experienced rapid enrollment growth between 2005 and 2010. The record-setting growth was driven in large part by the economic recession and high levels of unemployment, which drove many young people and adult learners to our colleges and universities to upgrade their skills or learn a new profession.

There’s no questioning whether enrollment was increasing in 2005-2010. It definitely was. What’s unquestionable, too, is that the recession didn’t start in 2005. It started in October, 2008. That means students had essentially locked into attending college a year before the Great Recession hit. It wasn’t until October, 2008, that huge job losses started.

While it’s undeniable that enrollments continued rising through 2010, it’s questionable whether the semi-recovery caused students to choose to find jobs rather than choosing to get their degree. For many families, the recession still hasn’t ended.

According to President Potter’s explanation, enrollment should still be increasing. At minimum, President Potter’s explanation is shaky. At worst, it’s dishonest spin because the facts doesn’t match the trend. This spin is worth challenging, too:

During the past five years, we have experienced another rapid change. Minnesota’s strong economy and improved employment outlook, along with declines in the number of high school graduates, have contributed to declining enrollment levels, which mirror national trends.

President Potter, what’s your explanation for St. Cloud State experiencing enrollment declines that are twice the rate of the next worst enrollment decline? It’s one thing for SCSU FYE enrollment to decline at the same rate as Mankato. It’s another to have SCSU’s FYE enrollment do this:

St. Cloud State’s FYE enrollment lost 272 students that fall compared with Mankato losing 70 students.

President Potter’s op-ed is filled with generalities like the Great Recession and universities’ enrollment dropping nationwide. President Potter’s op-ed is devoid, however, of explaining why SCSU lost more students than other MnSCU institutions.

This is laughable:

There are many other recent successes and projects on the horizon, and I take pride in knowing that we have made great recent strides in preparing for the future. But there is more to be done and I am confident that St. Cloud State, our MnSCU partners and institutional neighbors are ready to put in the work to continue to make college a value to students and the community.

With a $9,542,000 deficit to tame this year and $14,000,000 deficit heading SCSU’s way next year, saying that there’s “more work to be done” is understatement in the extreme.

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