If I didn’t know better, I’d think that this SCTimes article was written by the PR department at SCSU. Some of the statements found in the article defy logic. Before we get to some of the statements, the article reports that headcount enrollment has dropped 10% since 2013, dropping from 16,245 to 14,615. That doesn’t tell the public the important enrollment information.
Earlier in the article, Dan Gregory, the interim provost and vice president of academic affairs, said that St. Cloud State gained almost 5 percent more students of color over this time last year. The opening paragraph of the article said “Student headcount is down this fall at St. Cloud State University, but the number of non-white students is up.”
Those are nice statistics but they don’t tell us a thing about the financial health of the University. In fact, St. Cloud State’s CFO, Tammy McGee, isn’t mentioned in the article. That’s likely because she’s announced her resignation, effective at the end of the academic year. When talking about the University’s financial situation, the person speaking was Dr. Gregory:
St. Cloud State expected a greater drop in enrollment this year, so the school’s finances are healthy despite the 3 percent decrease, Gregory said.
I’m skeptical of that statement because several programs have had their faculty cut significantly. That, by itself, lowers labor costs. Unfortunately, it shrinks tuition revenue even more. (Think of how many students each professor teaches each semester.)
The article doesn’t mention anything about staffing levels, capacity levels in the dormitories or how many students buy student lunch programs, each of which produces significant amounts of revenue for the University. The article didn’t talk about the amount of money that the University sent to the Wedum Foundation. It isn’t a stretch to think that the University lost more than $1,000,000 on that this past fiscal year. Then there’s this:
St. Cloud State will roll out a new marketing strategy in coming months, Gregory said. The school will tout the quality of its programs and its focus on student success, he said. “I think there’s some positive momentum on campus over how we think about our students and student success.”
That’s outright spin. A loyal reader of LFR took pictures of the SCSU campus Tuesday afternoon. This is a picture of Atwood Center:
It’s understatement to that that doesn’t look like a picture of a thriving, healthy university. This picture is of the sidewalk heading into the Herberger School of Business:
Another thing that sets off red flags with me is the total reliance on headcount enrollment. That doesn’t tell me anything about how much revenue is being brought in. The best way to measure a university’s health is by finding out what the FYE (Full-Year Equivalent) enrollment is. That’s the enrollment that’s used to figure out the school’s budget.
Finally, isn’t it odd that the interim president at SCSU isn’t quoted in the article? Without information from SCSU’s president and CFO, this article isn’t much more than a University press release. Without knowing how much the FYE enrollment dropped, it’s impossible to determine SCSU’s financial health.