Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rapidly Approaching the Break Even Point

So I was recently informed the university continues to experience an enrollment crisis and one of the responses to the most current crisis has been to cold call students who have not registered. What is most interesting to me is if there is any awareness of what the university’s floor is in terms of enrollment.
Every business has a break even point. A university has a break even point in terms of revenue and/or in terms of enrollment. Research 1 universities have more flexibility in terms of declines in enrollment because their grant revenue is significantly higher. When the revenue from enrollment can’t meet the percentage of fixed costs that it needs to, then the institution risks becoming financially ineffective. If the enrollment has been declining, as it has at Chicago State University over the past four years, once that trend line intersects the break even point, the university is in deep trouble. It should be rather easy to determine what the necessary level of enrollment is and at what time point given the current decline the university will become financially ineffective. Having heard that our 20% decline in enrollment brought the university needed academic rigor, I am a bit dubious about this continued assertion. I contend it is a response to not knowing what to do or being unwilling to do what is necessary to increase or even stabilize enrollment. 
Cold calling, and begging students to enroll will not solve this problem. Possibly asking former students and students who made other educational choices why they didn’t choose CSU would be a reasonable start to address this problem. Last minute crisis management every semester will not stem the enrollment decline. Thoughtful, data based, decision making is the only way to address this situation and given the time the university has left before it reaches the break even point, they had better do something different soon.

1 comment:

  1. Today, I heard from one of our faculty that his daughter had applied (and been accepted to) most of the Universities in the state (including top tier-ones). The only University she had NOT heard from was Chicago State.

    I have also recently heard from our Dean that high schools in NW Indiana are essentially unaware that we exist.

    This is unconscionable. I suggest we look to advertising, the enrollment process, and follow-up.