Enrollment sags at CSCU colleges and universities
NEW HAVEN — Enrollment declines at the state’s community colleges and regional universities were greater than expected this fall according to the figures discussed Thursday by the Board of Regents for Higher Education.
“Was it a big disappointment? I think we anticipated a decline, but this was more than we anticipated,” Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities said after Thursday’s board meeting held at Southern Connecticut State University. “This is in line with national trends … The number of high school students year by year continues to decline.”
While the expected decline this year for community colleges was 2.5 to 3 percent, the actual decline of full-time students was 4.7 percent or 1,289 students enrolled full time.
For state universities, the expected decline was 2 to 2.5 percent, while the actual decline in full-time students was 3 percent or 819 students.
Ojakian said, “I think we need to do better in terms of reaching a non-traditional market, especially around adult learners. And that’s one of the efforts we’re going to be undertaking this coming year, working with the vice president for enrollment.”
Alison Buckley was hired as vice president of enrollment management for the 12 community colleges earlier this year.
“This is in line with national trends … The number of high school students year by year continues to decline.” — Mark Ojakian, CSCU president.
Ben Barnes, the CSCU’s chief financial officer, said the decline this fall could mean a revenue loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but noted that this is a comparatively small amount of money. The system has revenues of $1.28 billion.
“This is not good,” Barnes said, “but I think the risk to revenues is relatively small … and this could be made up by other revenue.”
He said it may be that spring or summer enrollment will make up for the decline in the fall.
“I don’t think there is any reason to take action now,” Barnes said. “This is an area of weakness, but there are other areas of strength. I think campuses have been doing a good job of managing their costs.”
Barnes said he is hopeful that the situation will “shake out” and that the CSCU system will still be on track with the Board of Regents’ plan to limit the use of reserve funding to $8 million this year.
He did say, however, that fall is usually the semester with the greatest enrollment, but he added that isn’t always necessarily so.
Five of the 12 community colleges had declines in full time enrollment of more than 5 percent, including Manchester Community College with a decline of 8.6 percent or 300 fewer students and Three Rivers Community College with a decline of 7 percent of 161 students.
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