How bad is the outlook for our fall 2015 enrollment? Is it possible to cut through the lies and bullshit the folks at Enrollment Management continually feed the Board of Trustees? Bullshit that the board continues to swallow with no questions. Right now, the answers to these questions are: awful, and yes. Given its history there is no reason to believe that the board will start acting like a responsible body.
Enrollment Management does basically the same song and dance at each board meeting. Echoing the words of Wayne Watson, Cheri Sidney or someone else representing that failed operation assures the board that Chicago State’s enrollment is “stabilizing” and will soon begin to “grow incrementally.” Of course, this is a blatant lie, there is no evidence at all that our enrollment will do anything but continue to plummet. Based on that reality, it becomes necessary for Watson and his minions to do what they seem to do best: refuse to take responsibility for their own failures by blaming everyone else for the problems they have caused with their malfeasance and utterly inept management. There are two parts to the narrative created by the administration to evade responsibility for this disaster: 1) the university is being “right-sized” with better students; 2) the university sets “goals” or “metrics” for the various colleges and departments, if enrollment figures do not equal these numbers, the departments and colleges are to blame.
The problem with the first part of the narrative is that it strains credibility far beyond the breaking point. Watson provides no actual target number for his ridiculous “right-sizing.” Is it 5000? 4000? How about 500? We do not know because the claim is meaningless and has only recently been trotted out as a justification for the plunging enrollment—nothing to worry about, the enrollment losses are really part of a grand plan by the administration.
The second part of the narrative is actually laughable. Watson was Chancellor of City Colleges from 1998 to 2009. He became Chicago State’s President in 2009, a total of 17 years of “leadership.” Enrollment data exists for 15 of those years, from 2000 to 2009 at City Colleges and from 2010 to 2014 at Chicago State. During those 15 years, Watson “led” City Colleges to an enrollment decrease of nearly 23 percent, from 122,000 students in 2000 to 95,000 in 2009. During his tenure as Chicago State’s president Watson has overseen a nearly 30 percent decline in enrollment, from 7235 in 2009 to 5211 in 2014. From 2000 to 2009, City Colleges experienced 8 years of enrollment decreases, with the only increase (83 students in a population better than 95,000) coming in Watson’s final year, 2008-09. At Chicago State, enrollment increased from 7235 in fall 2009 to 7362 in fall 2010, a 1.8 percent increase. Every other year of Watson’s presidency, enrollment has dropped at CSU. In fall 2011, it declined 6.5 percent, in fall 2012, it dropped another 11.3 percent, in fall 2013, CSU lost another 6.6 percent of its enrollment, and in fall 2014, enrollment fell 8.6 percent from the previous fall. Since Chicago State’s last enrollment increase in fall 2010, the school under Watson has seen 9 consecutive semesters of enrollment losses. All these numbers should cause any reasonable observer to conclude that a direct correlation exists between Wayne Watson’s leadership and students fleeing the colleges he “manages.” One might even call his chancellorship and presidency colossal failures.
Not so the people at Enrollment Management. For the past two years, they have come up with a “goal” for enrollment. The goal is a 3 percent increase in enrollment in every department and college at Chicago State. Such a goal runs counter to reality, which is the idea. Last fall, when the university experienced a drop of 490 students to 5211, the “goal” set by Enrollment Management had been 5882, a 3 percent increase over fall 2013’s anemic total of 5701 students. The failure of the colleges and departments to do the administration’s job allowed Angela Henderson to go in front of the Board of Trustees and blame the faculty and mid-level administrators for our enrollment losses. No responsibility there for the Watson “team.” This year, Enrollment Management has again arbitrarily decided that the school’s enrollment “goal” should be an increase of 3 percent from last year's total of 5211. That has resulted in this year’s absurd target enrollment of 5366. So, two weeks before the semester, how are we doing?
Yesterday, total enrollment stood at 3660, a drop of 496 students from last year’s figure of 4156 (a 9.5 percent decline). Thus, in order to reach last year’s total of 5211, enrollment must increase by 1551 students between now and August 24. That’s an average of nearly 111 students a day folks. In order to reach the enrollment “goal” of 5366, we are going to need another 1706 students to enroll, or nearly 122 students per day. On July 20, the school’s enrollment apparently stood at 2905, which means that an additional 755 students registered in the next 21 days (just under 36 students a day). Does anyone believe that we are going to be able to triple the number of students enrolling daily between now and the beginning of the fall semester?
Last year, between August 11 and September 8, we added 973 students (an average of 34.75/day). The special session in mid-September apparently brought in another 82 students. Given our past performance, I think the upcoming semester will look like this:
In what I consider the best-case scenario, we add the same number of students as last year—1055 to bring the enrollment total to 4715, a drop of 103 from spring 2015 and 496 from the previous fall. Other possibilities are much worse. If we continue to enroll 36 students per day from now through August 30, 2015 (the end of the first week of the semester), we will add another 720, bringing our enrollment to 4380. Splitting the difference between the high and low figures, I estimate that our enrollment this fall will be somewhere around 4550. I fervently hope I am wrong. Here are the grim figures from the administration:
I think these figures speak for themselves. Our increasingly dire circumstances cause me to ask the following questions: Will anyone step in to stop this bleeding? I understand that the board does not like the "tone" of this blog. Is that enough reason to ignore the situation here? To continue to prop up this utterly failed administration? To continue to accept the administration's mendacious claims at face value? Is it even possible anymore to save this school?