BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 2/7/19
Continuing a six year trend, Adams State University (ASU) undergraduate enrollment dropped by -8.2% in the spring 2019 semester as compared to a year ago. Previously, spring 2018 declined -4.4%, spring 2017 declined -3.6%, and spring 2016 declined by -4.4%.
With a total head count of 1448 students in spring 2019, ASU’s undergraduate enrollment has now dropped well below the 1500 benchmark, from a high of 1770 in 2015, representing an –18% decline overall since 2015.
ASU’s peak undergraduate enrollment was 3033 students in 2012, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Since then, enrollment has plummeted a total of 52.3% over a seven year period.
DECLINES WHERE IT MATTERS MOST
As with the previous year, spring 2019 saw a decline in every class year at ASU. The declines were greatest among freshman at -12% and seniors at -10.5%. Overall, continuing students declined by 100 ( -6.5%) while re-admitted students declined by 15 (37.5%).
The only positive change among all undergraduate students was a 10% increase among non-resident students, providing a relative boost to tuition dollars. However, even non-resident tuition has declined slightly overall – from 308 students in 2015 to 292 in 2019.
As one employee noted, “Probably some of the most important numbers are the worst: freshman are down -12%, first-time students are down -33%, and high school students are down almost -13%.”
These declining student groups are the most predictive of future enrollment trends, forecasting greater enrollment declines for 2020.
A VERY SLIPPERY SLOPE
These ongoing declines in enrollment are clustered with numerous other signs of an institution in peril. In 2018, ASU eliminated 27 full time positions and cut salaried contracts for a total of 35 positions, along with a high turnover of over 100 employees departing in the previous three years.
ASU has also maintained a downgraded A3 underlying credit rating with a negative outlook on the underlying rating by Moody’s Investor Service. Among the factors listed for a further downgrade include, “Material enrollment declines further pressuring net tuition revenue.”
ASU’s Guaranteed Tuition program was also cited by Moody’s as among the reasons for a downgraded credit rating. While created during the previous administration as a way to grow enrollment, this program has failed to attract and retain more students to ASU.
In addition, the university was recently fined $84,351 by the U.S. Department of Education for multiple compliance violations and failing to return improperly-allocated federal student aid.
One ASU employee said, “why is Karla Hardesty still executive director of enrollment management? Will the new president PLEASE BEG Eric Carpio, Michelle Romero and Dr. Mumper to come back? It’s called ‘record breaking enrollments.'”
Another ASU employee remarked, “I knew things were bad, but this is grim. ASU can’t take too much more of this.”
A former ASU employee familiar with enrollment also stated, “ASU needs to increase the number of non-resident students not just for the sake of dollars, but for the sake of creating diversity within the student population. This would also assist in decreasing the nepotism within the staff. There is an opportunity to grow and build here. If changes are not made soon, ASU will be headed down very slippery slope.”