BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 9/13/18
Fall 2018 enrollment at Adams State University (ASU) saw continued declining enrollment, though at a rate lower than the previous four years. According to fall 2018 enrollment data, 21 fewer undergraduates enrolled this year, lowering the total to 1710 students – a 1% decline from a year ago.
The fall undergraduate headcount for ASU in 2015 was 1921 students. In the past three years, total undergraduate enrollment has declined by 211 students, or about 11% of overall enrollment.
ASU’s “peak” enrollment was during the 2011-2012 academic year, with 2301 undergraduates.
FEWER STUDENTS EXCEPT JUNIORS, LARGEST DECLINE IN SENIORS
If not for a larger group of incoming juniors than previous years, the net change would have been more negative in 2018.
Freshman enrollment dropped an additional 3% in 2018, on top of a 12% drop the previous year (2017) and a 1% drop from the year prior (2016). The fall 2015 enrollment was 686 students, now down to 578 students in 2018 – representing a 16% overall decline.
Sophomore enrollment dropped 5% this year, down to 318 students. 2015 enrollment was 358 students and has slowly declined each year since, totaling an 11% decline.
Junior enrollment increased by 31% this year, up to 409 students. However, this class has been volatile fluctuation in recent years; junior enrollment declined by 17% in 2017 (313 students) after a decline by 9% in 2016 (377 students). The 2015 junior enrollment was 414 students – just above the current levels. This means for all the gains that were made in 2018 junior enrollment, it came just short of the combined losses of the previous two years. In total, junior year student enrollment has remained steady in recent years.
Senior enrollment dropped by 27% this year, down to 314 students. The 2015 senior class was 420 students and dropped by 2% in 2016 but rose by 6% in 2017. All told, the senior class has dropped by 25% since 2015.
FEWER SENIORS MEANS FEWER DIPLOMAS, LOWER GRADUATION RATES
Most significantly, declining senior enrollment means fewer degrees completed at ASU and, with seniors departing at over twice the rate of overall declining enrollment, also means a lower four year graduation rate. ASU graduates students at a rate 26% lower than the state average.
ASU currently accepts 99% of all students who apply according to University Magazine. Because many students enrolled from lax admission standards are under-prepared for college and remedial college coursework has been met with very limited success, ASU’s four-year graduation rate is only 15.3% and its six-year graduation rate is only 34.2% of enrolled students.
That means that under existing conditions, about two-thirds of ASU students will never earn an undergraduate degree. The recent drop of senior enrollment being twice that of other declining enrollment trends also means overall lower graduation rates in the future.
If ASU is going to increase its nationally low rate of degree completion, this trend must be reversed.
MISLEADING ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
On September 8th, the Valley Courier stated, “Adams State’s fall figures show an 11 percent growth in first-time students and 12 percent growth in transfer students from a year ago.” This is true.
However, these numbers are misleading because the increase of 41 first-time students was offset by the loss of 82 continuing students and the drop of 3 other first time enrolled – meaning the net change among continuing and first time students was 44 fewer students.
And while external transfers increased by 17 students in 2018, internal transfers dropped by 8 students and those readmitted dropped by 15 students – more than canceling out transfer student increases.
The increase of 29 high school concurrent students is notable at a 48% increase, though these students may not enroll as freshman at ASU given that their credits will transfer to other accredited institutions – including those with higher academic profiles.
Overall, selectively announcing the increase of some students populations while omitting the drop in other student populations only serves to misrepresent the data and mislead the public about ASU’s enrollment trends.
One former ASU employee stated, “Adams and their lackey media mouthpiece, the Valley Courier, can try to spin these numbers positive all day long, but a 1% decline isn’t enrollment growth. It’s more of the same: a slow slide into disaster.”
DID ENROLLMENT FINALLY HIT BOTTOM – OR STILL IN FREE FALL?
One former ASU employee observed, “ASU’s philosophy seems to be ‘there’s nowhere to go but up!’ While that’s a pleasant exercise in optimism, it doesn’t get at why the problem got this severe or what will be done about it. Has Guaranteed Tuition helped enrollment? Has all the deficit spending towards athletics facilities helped enrollment? Certainly, the high staff turnover hasn’t helped enrollment. It is long past time for ASU’s trustees and administration to get serious about fixing what is wrong with the institution rather than trying to find the silver lining in storm clouds which are already ravaging the campus.”
A current ASU employee reacted to the enrollment data by saying, “It’s concerning that there appears to be a celebration of rebounding enrollment at the town hall meeting when in fact we are still in a downward spiral. If significant changes aren’t made in the upper echelons—and soon, this institution’s fate is sealed. I wish Dr. Lovell luck. She needs it.”
Given the amount of turmoil on the ASU campus in recent years, the local community and key stakeholders are understandably eager to see measurable progress towards fiscal solvency, improved employee morale, and student success. The fall 2018 enrollment data has yet to announce that such a reversal is truly underway.