St. Cloud State University’s student enrollment is on the up. SCSU’s student population has been following a steady decline since 2010. For the first time in five years there has been an increase in student enrollment.
Newly entering students are up 7.5 percent from last year. Freshmen make up 10.7 percent and transfer students consist of 2 percent of the total student population. This brings SCSU’s total student headcount up to a total 0.3 percent rise from the previous academic year.
“To reverse a decline or just to get it to even out is an aggressive feat,” said Amber Schultz, Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Student Recruitment and Student Transition at SCSU, “So to have a 10.7 percent increase at the same time is a huge jump.”
SCSU is one of four Minn. universities to see an increase in student headcount this academic year. However, it remained an overall disappointing year for Minn. colleges and universities, with a 2 percent net decrease of the student headcount from last year.
Student headcount accounts for every student taking any number of credits at a college or university.
Although SCSU has reason to be optimistic over our student headcount, there are still some troubling figures in this year’s enrollment. This year FYE, Full Year Equivalent, enrollment is down 0.4 percent from last year.
A FYE is an equation for determining the sum of full-time students. This is done by adding up the total number of credits being enrolled in at a university and dividing it by 15, the minimum amount of credits to qualify as full-time by university standards, to get any sum representative of the full-time student population.
FYE is a major factor in determining a schools funding and is of overall more significance to a universities standings than student headcount.
There are numerous factors that contributed to SCSU’s gradually declining student population over the past four years. SCSU traditionally draws its student population from the northern half of the Twin Cities, the I-94 and Highway 10 corridor, and the greater surrounding St. Cloud Area.
In 2008-09, much of the upper Midwest was anticipating a lower number of high school graduates due to a lull in the youth population. SCSU wasn’t anticipating the same student population decline that its other competing schools in the upper Midwest were, because the area that SCSU traditionally draws its student population from seemed unaffected by the lull. Competing schools saw SCSU’s buoyant student territory as an opportunity to thwart their declining numbers. They took a special interest in the region and began to invest more money and recruitment efforts to encourage students to enroll in their school.
“The competition became incredibly fierce,” said Schultz, “You can’t drive very far here and not see a North Dakota State University billboard.”
Not only did SCSU’s demographics decline but it also lost a significant amount of market shares. In order to combat the steep decline, SCSU set both aggressive and very granular goals. They revved up their recruitment efforts and began to personally follow up on potential students on a month-to-month basis, trying to average a certain number of recruitments from each high school. Between the new goal-oriented attention-to-detail recruitment efforts and increasing number of high school graduates, SCSU’s student population began to stabilize.
SCSU is also showing effort to diversify its methods of attracting students and parting ways with old standbys. SCSU has traditionally been heavily dependent on community college transfer students. Community colleges across Minn. have been struggling with a rapidly decreasing student population over the past few years with SCSU’s biggest feeder, St. Cloud Technical and Community College, being down 5 percent in headcount this semester.
“In order for us to continue to diversify our market, we can’t rely as heavily on our community college feeders,” said Schultz. “Community college is dependent on the economy; as the economy improves enrollment goes down.” Ultimately, SCSU’s biggest means of attraction is itself.
“It doesn’t feel overwhelmingly large but there is enough diversity and opportunity for involvement that it doesn’t feel like a small campus,” says Schultz, “This place is phenomenal.”