Despite Guaranteed Tuition, ASU Enrollment Continues to Decline



After a month-long bureaucratic delay from Adams State University (ASU) Human Resources, Watching Adams obtained the university’s fall 2016 undergraduate enrollment statistics from their census date, September 7th, 2016. In comparison to fall 2015, total undergraduate enrollment at ASU has dropped by 60 students to 1861 students, a 3.1% decline from the 1921 students previously on campus.

According to one source familiar with ASU enrollment statistics, this drop is likely greater today than at census date given that some students continue to withdraw.  This is a continuation of declining enrollment from spring 2015 to spring 2016, which also saw a drop of 78 students, or around 4.4%.

In fall 2016, the largest drop in enrollment was among ASU juniors, with 37 students, or 8.9% leaving. ASU saw the largest increase among internal transfer and high school students, with an additional 4 students (14.8%) and 7 students (16.3%) respectively. However, the only year with an overall increase in student population was the sophomore class, with an additional 7 students (2%). The 2016 freshman class dropped by 10 students (1.5%) and seniors decreased by 9 students (2.1%).

Another notable change is the sharp decline of readmitted students, from 61 to 34 (about 44.3%).  One faculty member noted that many readmitted students have been in and out of the ASU enrollment system several times and are unlikely to complete a degree.  They observed that “as long as they are a warm body and can pay tuition, Adams State seems to continue accepting them even if they are unlikely to ever attain a degree.”

This ongoing drop in enrollment happened despite ASU introducing Guaranteed Tuition in fall 2016, a marketing strategy to attract undergraduate students which, thus far, has not succeeded. However, Guaranteed Tuition was cited by Moody’s Investors Service as a reason for downgrading ASU’s credit rating to A3 negative, the lowest A-grade rating. Guaranteed Tuition has also generated many additional administrative costs in order to track the cohorts of students moving through ASU’s financial system.

In the spring of 2016, ASU President Beverlee McClure had set a goal of 144 additional students to cover operating shortfalls, budgetary requests, and a 2% raise for all employees. Instead, ASU lost 60 students in fall 2016, a net shortfall of 204 students from her projected benchmark. Using the previous approximation that every 2% drop represents a loss of $1 million for ASU, the fall 2016 enrollment data indicates a loss of approximately $1.6 million in revenue – and during a time of anticipated growth necessary to recoup four years of operating losses for ASU.