So public universities in Illinois are reporting their enrollment numbers. The U of I system has increased its enrollment as has Illinois State University. NIU, SIU, WIU and EIU appear to be down in enrollment and GSU, NEIU and CSU have not reported enrollment from the 10 day count yet. CSU is likely to be down 20%. So how are some universities able to increase their enrollment following the FY16 budget impasse while others are not able to at least maintain flat enrollment?
At CSU the answers is in two parts. In its rush to declare the severity of the budget crisis, CSU's Board of Trustees approved a financial exigency declaration. One of the actions taken during this exigency condition was to eliminate nearly half of the staff of the university. Unfortunately, the Admissions office was left with one admissions counselor and one data entry specialist. For an institution this size this is clearly not enough human infrastructure. The university has no capacity to maintain the flow of its lifeblood, new students. What is worse, is that your humble narrator told the Management Action Committee on at least two occasions that it must preserve the infrastructure of Enrollment Management at all costs. Cutting off the flow of students will doom the university in the long run. Of course the #clowncar did just what would hurt the university most, it gutted Enrollment Management. It was gutted to the point that the now departed vice president chose to leave rather than be hobbled by the most inept administration in the state.
Now with another vice president on board, the university has an opportunity to hire admissions counselors and stem the bleeding a bit. But the #clowncar has done another drive by on the university. In its "wisdom" the MAC has decided to hire temporary employees to be admissions counselors with their terms ending in May 2017.
The second reason for the steep one year decline in enrollment is directly attributable to the university not countering the widely reported narrative that the university is closing. The #clowncar ensured that no money was spent and no efforts were made to communicate with the community that CSU was open for business even if it was business as usual.
Now I know the #clowncar apologists will want to say how bad the budget situation was. That's true and the U of I has record enrollment this year. That's right loyal readers, the highest enrollment in the system's history. ISU has its highest enrollment in 27 years. They faced the same budget challenges yet they managed to turn lemons into lemonade. The #clowncar managed to turn lemons into empty classrooms, offices, and parking lots.
With all of the money saved in personnel it's strange that the university has no money. The legislature gave the six month appropriation based on what universities asked for. How much did the #clowncar ask for? Apparently not enough to maintain basic functions like admissions.
What will the next target of the #clowncar drive by be? Maybe they will close the Library to save money or shut down the Information Technology Division.
The Board should demand a forensic audit of this university at its meeting on September 16th. This may uncover where the money is being spent because clearly it is not being spent on admissions or preserving the integrity of the university.