New student enrollment down for second straight year

 

Malone faces potential budget cuts after new student enrollment dropped for a second straight year.

Official numbers indicate that 485 new students have registered for the Fall 2011 semester. The new student total includes incoming freshmen and transfer students.

New student enrollment has fallen for a second straight year. (Photo by Kaitie Fox)

According to Dr. Brock Schroeder, vice president for enrollment management and marketing, even though the university budgeted for what he termed “flat enrollment,” the numbers still failed to meet expectations.

“What we’ve seen coming in is that we built a budget for new student enrollment [that is] a little bit more than what we’re bringing in now,” Schroeder said. “… Because the new student enrollment didn’t meet what we had hoped for in terms of building our budget, that’s what’s causing us to have a slight budget shortfall that we have to balance.”

Compared to last year’s total of 495 new students, this year’s numbers indicate a drop of 10 students—which in turn represents tuition money the university will have to make up for.

The previous year, Malone saw new student enrollment numbers skyrocket to 622, thanks in large part to a huge freshman class. Schroeder termed the 2009 numbers an “anomaly.”

Schroeder said one of the areas Malone will target in order to reduce the budget will be in filling new staff positions.

“We [will] look at any open position, faculty or staff, and say, ‘Can we wait on replacing these people?’,” he said.

Operating expenses will also be looked at in order to balance the budget, although Schroeder stressed that the impact on academic programs will be minimized.

Registrar Gary Phelps said the enrollment drop would have a minimal impact on Malone’s course offerings.

“You have to watch that you’re not overplanning in terms of sections, because sections are costly just on an individual basis,” Phelps said.

“You do want to plan appropriately, but having a small drop here or there is not going to suddenly mean ten sections of a particular course go away. It’s minimal. Instead of four sections of something, you might see three sections.”

It’s too soon to determine exactly how much revenue Malone will lose as a result of the enrollment shortfall. Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs Joy Brathwaite declined to comment until she has a chance to analyze the numbers.

According to Schroeder, Malone usually draws about 480-500 new students each year. In the last few years, however, he said he has seen students exercise much more caution when it comes to going into debt, perhaps due to economic conditions.

“We are increasingly seeing students who are very hesitant to take out any kind of loan to pay for their education,” Schroeder said.

When Malone surveys students who chose not to attend the university, Schroeder said finances are the number one reason they list for going to school elsewhere. With that in mind, he said financial aid is one area he will look very closely at as he tries to understand why new student enrollment fell.

As far as the financial impact of this year’s enrollment numbers goes, Schroeder stressed that every student represents thousands of dollars in lost revenue—even in the case of being a mere one or two students below the budgeted amount.

“Anytime you’re one or two under, that’s that much less revenue over four years that you’re not generating,” he said. “It’s a problem, and it just continues to scale bigger as you have less [enrollment].”

Jesse Peek is editor-in-chief for Aviso AVW.

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