Dear Ohio State Mansfield Colleagues,
I begin my report with the recognition that three major committees – APT (Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure), POA (Pattern of Administration), and CIP (Campus Implementation Plan) – are reaching the final stages of preparing documents that soon will be shared with the entire campus community. I am extremely proud (and relieved!) to say that we are on target to hit all of our deadlines.
Because these three documents are going to drive conversations about where we are going as a campus, I thought it might behoove us to remember where we have been. Therefore, this is the first in a series of special biweekly reports that helps us to “look back” as we “look forward.” This particular special report is meant to supply the campus with some food for thought regarding our enrollment and graduation trends over the last decade.
The first graph that you see above depicts the fact that our overall enrollment last year (n = 1,368) reflects a 6% decline from 10 years ago (n = 1,451). In fact, last year was the lowest enrollment of the decade; our best two years were 2003 (n = 1619) and 2009 (n = 1,608), years that represent approximately 15% more students in comparison to last year’s enrollment. The core question that I would like our campus to ponder is this: what factors are contributing to this decline?
Interestingly, when we look at race/ethnicity, we see that the number of white students has tended to reflect the overall increases and declines in enrollment over the decade. In stark contrast, however, the number of students of color has grown appreciably from ten years ago (n = 99) to last year (n = 163), or about a 40% jump in enrollment.
What about our campus change numbers? It is clear that we increasingly have served as the “front door” for students who are interested in completing their education on the Columbus campus. The numbers from a decade ago (n = 136) as compared to last year (n = 251) reflects close to a 50% increase in the number of students we are supplying with a first year experience.
In comparison, the number of students who are staying with us to complete their graduation requirements has declined throughout this time period. The first year in which we have data available for this figure is 2003, where we had 90 graduates, as compared to last year’s 78 graduates, reflecting a 14% drop in degree completion students.
This begs another question: Who are our graduates by degree program, and what have the trends been in our four-year programs over this period of time?
Over the last nine years, we can see that Education has led the pack with 310 graduates, followed by a significant drop to English (n = 136) and Psychology (n = 126), followed by another significant drop to History (n = 68), Business (n = 62), and Sociology/Criminology (n = 39). That is not the whole story, however. The chart below displays trend lines over this same period of time. While Education is the top degree producing program during this entire period, its numbers have fallen over 25% across time. In contrast, English has experienced 100% growth over this period of time, literally doubling its graduation numbers. Although there has been some marked fluctuation from year to year, Psychology, Business, History, and Sociology have remained relatively steady when taken as an average over this time period.
So what are we to make of all this? Here are some questions to consider:
If you are one of those “the glass is half empty” people, what mistakes have we been making in the last couple of years (in addition to getting hammered by external factors like the economy and the migration of the nursing program to Ashland University) concerning recruitment?
If you are one of those “the glass is half full” people, what were we doing right in years like 2003 and 2009 (again holding all other external variables constant)?
Beyond moral and ethical considerations (important as they are in their own right), is the recruitment and retention of students of color a growth area for our campus from a business standpoint? And if so, what does that mean in terms of the redirection of resources?
What does it mean to our campus to know that we are increasingly sending more and more students to Columbus as part of the campus change process? Is this a growth area for us as well, and if so what kinds of resources do we need to redirect? Or alternatively, is this area going to grow regardless of what we do, especially given the increasingly selective admissions criteria related to first choice admission on the Columbus campus? And if that is the case, then what kinds of decisions might this trigger about the way we do business on campus (recruitment, advising, programming, etc.)?
What does the graduation data – both overall numbers and trends – tell us about how we want to spend (and possibly reallocate) resources? Coupled with other data (for instance, on credit hour generation), this may raise some related (if prickly) questions, including: Does the use of such data drive decisions about new hires? I include the related question of whether or not the use of such data can help to balance the need for replacement faculty with the hiring of destination program faculty. Does the use of such data drive decisions related to course releases?
I am fairly certain that these questions are only scratching the surface. I am interested in hearing what else the information provided here about enrollment and graduation trends sparks for you that have not been addressed in this report. I look forward to hearing from all of you in the days and weeks ahead!
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