Southern’s enrollment continues to decline, records show

Sandra Gomez and Jossinet Ramos Vera – Special to the Southern News 

Students pursuing higher education across Connecticut could soon be experiencing the consequences of a continuing decline in state college and university enrollment and upcoming budget cuts.

Connecticut’s four state universities; Southern Connecticut State University, Western Connecticut State University, Eastern Connecticut State University and Central Connecticut State University, enroll more than 34,000 students altogether.

A study prepared by the CT Board of Regents using IPEDS [Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System] gave an overview of the fall semester headcount in each of the state universities for the past 10 years.

Fall of 2014 shows SCSU at a 20 student increase compared to fall of the previous year. During the same time period CCSU, who is roughly SCSU’s size, gained 172 students.

WCSU and ECSU are roughly around the same size and both decreased in student size the 2014 fall semester. WCSU lost 73 students and ECSU lost 81.

“There are differences in the four CSUs and in our enrollments, and we’re not necessarily meant to have the same enrollment,” said Alexis Haakonsen, director of Admissions. “For example, CCSU and SCSU are closer in size, but Eastern is a smaller school by design.  I don’t believe they are expected to have 10,000-12,000 students like the larger schools.”

Although campus size matters, the discrepancy in enrollment numbers does not go unnoticed by school officials.

From 2010 to 2014, all schools have significantly decreased in the enrollment sector. In the 5-year period CCSU has had a decrease of 3.4 percent enrollment, ECSU lost 5.8 percent, SCSU lost 8.4 percent and WCSU lost a 10 percent of its student enrollment.

The numbers show our state universities losing a significant amount of students over the most recent years, but when seen in the 10 year comparison only CCSU and SCSU have seen a decline.

CCSU has lost a 2.3 percent of student enrollment in the last 10 years. While SCSU has lost an 11.1 percent of student enrollment in the same time period, making it the lowest enrolled school out of the four state universities.

A decline in enrollment not only means less students, it also signifies a loss in revenue which can negatively affect university operations.

At SCSU’s University Dialogue, President Mary Papazian mentioned that a one percent drop in student enrollment means a loss of  $3/4 of a million.

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s efforts to decrease Connecticut’s deficit have also put a strain on the public colleges and universities.

Currently all state universities and colleges are under a hiring freeze and it will worsen with budget cuts expecting to rise past the first estimate of $38 million to upwards of $40 million.

Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, Rick Riccardi, talked of what the state budget cuts and the decline in enrollment mean for SCSU.

“We might have to run fewer sections of a course to save money on adjunct faculty, but that means the class sizes are larger, and some adjuncts might be without a job for a given semester,” said Riccardi. “The workload remains the same, but there are fewer people to do that work.”

Haakonsen said she did not have information as to why there was a decline occurring. However, the admissions office officials continue to conduct open houses and information sessions on campus. In addition, they also attend college fairs and visit high schools and community colleges, all in an attempt to attract potential students.

“We have a recruitment strategy and a communications plan that drive our activities throughout the year,” said Haakonsen.

Photo Credit: Derek Torrellas



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