BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 2/27/17
Undergraduate student enrollment at Adams State University (ASU) continues to decline in the spring 2017 semester, with a net drop of -3.6% since spring 2016. This now represents several years of declining enrollment among the ASU student population, including a -4.4% decline from spring 2015-2016. Over two years, spring 2015 enrolled 1770 undergraduates while spring 2017 enrolled 1635. This 135 student loss represents a -7.6% drop since spring 2015.
The spring 2016-2017 data comparison is online here:
One ASU employee reviewed the data and noted the large 2017 class moving through the degree system, but also that other cohorts are smaller than in previous years. They said, “the fact that seniors are up while all the other classes are down is noteworthy. The average change for the other three classes is -6.46%. Overall, we were down -3.6%, but that could be worse next year.”
They explained, “It’s like the Baby Boomer bubble moving through. If ASU doesn’t turn things around, enrollment could look even worse next year once those seniors graduate. That’s magnified by the fact that they are the biggest group. We have 117 fewer current juniors to replace them next year.”
Between 2008 and 2012, Adams State continued to grow enrollment, however undergraduate enrollment began to level off by 2014 and has been in decline ever since. While graduate student enrollment has increased, it has not offset the overall trends of decreased enrollment.
Despite a Guaranteed Tuition program, ASU continues to enroll and retain fewer students under the leadership of President Beverlee McClure. Increasing enrollment was among the main tasks for her administration and was discussed during the February 2016 Board of Trustees meeting, which also addressed ASU’s recent credit downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service:
“President McClure informed the Board of a conference call with Moody’s regarding the recent downgrading of the institution’s bond rating, assuring them that the Board of Trustees is actively engaged in the institution’s fiscal oversight with programs such as Guaranteed Tuition, as well as a commitment to help increase and diversify the revenue stream. She stressed the importance of increasing enrollment to help offset shortfalls in revenue. Moody’s will follow-up and review the institution’s financial standing in 18 months. If no significant changes have been made, the institution may face another rating downgrade.” [emphasis added]
President McClure also explained to the Faculty Senate in February 2016 that regarding enrollment, “what we are doing now is not working” and explained that ASU would need 144 additional students enrolled by fall 2016 to handle the anticipated budget shortfall and new funding requests, including a 1% raise for all ASU employees. But rather than increasing ASU student populations in the fall of 2016, enrollment decreased by 60 students, or -3.1%.
A recent financial report commissioned by the Colorado State Auditor concluded that ASU must “identify more significant cost-cutting and revenue-enhancement strategies to ensure its financial sustainability.” The report stated that “Adams’ critical strategic challenge will be to achieve revenue gains through increased enrollment without equal increases in costs.”
As of spring 2017, that has not happened.