It seems possible that the new Board members quickly realized that virtually no useful information came from people in key administrative positions at CSU. Particularly problematic was the report from Enrollment Management, which was obviously a production of the Provost’s office, since it was virtually content free, except for items that could charitably be described as ludicrous.
Remember that these people have been making unfulfilled promises for the past six years or so. The beginning of the report is truly breathtaking in its fantasizing. The “goal” for the fall is to increase the number of incoming freshmen and transfer students by 100 percent over the anemic 2016 figure, with a 20 percent increase in graduate/professional students. This translates to 592 new undergraduates and 245 new graduate students, a total incoming student population of 837. I’ll talk about the numbers I think we’ll be able to realize in a moment, but first there are a number of reasons this “goal” is ridiculous: first, Admissions is down to one actual admissions person, since the Director of Admissions recently left the university. There are currently no job announcements for any additional staff to do the work in that area. Second, as the report indicates, our fall applications are currently at 2600. For fall 2014 and 2015, the university received better than 7000 undergraduate applications, which yielded in those two years 803 and 697 new undergraduates. I don’t know how many applications we received for fall 2016, but our new undergraduates totaled 296. The consistent failure of the administrators responsible for attracting new students to Chicago State coupled with the absence of personnel to actually do the work of admitting students does not auger well for the success of this endeavor.
Of course, the university also loses students during the year. For the years complete data is available (2009-10 to 2013-14), just over 20.3 percent of our undergraduate students left the university; either by graduating or for other reasons. Additionally, 18.9 percent of our graduates finished their programs. Taking this fall’s enrollment figure of 3578 (1226 graduate students) as the point of departure, we should expect to lose at least 477 undergraduates and an additional 232 graduate students, for a total of 709. Based on the projected graduation numbers and given the “goal” of increasing graduate enrollment by 20 percent, it becomes necessary to attract 477 new graduate students. Thus, doubling our incoming undergraduate student population and increasing our graduate population by 20 percent would increase our actual enrollment by 373 to 3951. Absolutely ridiculous.
Unfortunately, the projected figures on student losses are likely quite low. Enrollment Management reported 245 applications for fall graduation. Given that spring graduation is typically much larger, I think it likely we will approach 650 undergrad graduates. Adding to that total the expected 232 graduate students finishing their programs, we will lose 882 students this year to graduation alone (we graduated a total of 949 last year). Adding to that total the 5.7 percent of undergraduates (134 students at our current enrollment level) who leave school for other reasons, our projected student losses before fall 2017 come to 1016 students. So the enrollment “goals,” if attained, will leave us with a net gain of 66 students for a total enrollment of 3644.
It just gets worse from here. If we only attract a similar number of students as the 296 who enrolled last year, our enrollment would be 3103. Last year the graduate student population dropped by around 6 percent (by 79 students). If we do that again this fall, our graduate population will be at 1152, rather than the 1471 the enrollment “goal” seeks to produce, the enrollment drops to 3029. Frankly, I think we’ll struggle to reach 3,000 students in fall 2017. I fervently hope I am wrong.