Low enrollment numbers not ‘unusual,’ but ‘impactful’

Multiply 25 students by the cost of tuition—$29,840.

That’s $746,000 in what Vice President of Enrollment Kate Coffman calls potential “lost revenue.”

And with a goal of 300 students, Franklin College departments are digging deep for solutions to avoid any major changes as a result of this year’s lower-than-usual enrollment numbers.

As of the tenth day of class for the 2016-2017 academic year, 275 new students, including freshmen and transfer students, were enrolled in classes at the college.

That’s 25 less than anticipated.

“We’re putting things in place that we believe will help mitigate really what is a one-year down turn in our numbers,” Coffman said. “Historically, we aim for somewhere between 300 and 320 [new students]. The budget for the college is usually set on a number around 300.”

But Coffman said this year’s dip in numbers is not unusual. Every three to four years, the college sees a decrease in enrollment numbers, usually following years of spikes.

“We hit 300, we hit 320, we hit 320 again, maybe a spike year—like we had a 357 not too long ago—and then we’ll have a historically low year and then we’ll rebound,” Coffman said. “What I am trying to work on with [Franklin College President Thomas] Minar is to prevent those spikes and dips — to be one consistent across year after year to hit the goal.”

In an effort to prevent low enrollment in the future, Coffman said the implementation of a new sales-force based database will help admissions counselors reach out to a greater population of perspective students.

“Historically, colleges buy student names,” Coffman said. “You take the SAT or the ACT or visit a college-planning website, and you may not realize you’re doing this, but you’re indicating permission for your name to be sold. Over the years, the college scaled back some of that buying because of some of that expense, but it prevented us from really being able to build a large pipeline of students.”

Between 2010 and 2012, Coffman said the college had a pipeline of nearly 70,000 high school seniors.

In contrast, only 20,000 names were bought in 2015, but the perspective pool rose to 60,000 this year after the admissions department began investing in a greater amount of names.

Dan Schluge, vice president for business and finance at the college, said no major changes to the budget are anticipated as a result of this year’s low enrollment numbers.

“We do identify those costs that have the least amount of impact to the student experience,” Schluge said. “Financial aid will not be affected.”

The budget is set to be finalized at the annual Board of Trustees meeting in October. That is where board members will determine if budget cuts are necessary, and if so, who and what will be affected.

Director of Residence Life Jacob Knight said there is no significant impact on the housing department at this point.

“We’re still fairly full with our students,” Knight said. “As of [Sept. 5], we were sitting at 94 percent occupancy. Last year, we were at 103 percent occupancy at this time. In some ways, it’s a good thing, but also it definitely has a financial impact on the college as a whole.”

Students pay nearly $10,000 a year for room and board, but Knight said the business office handles housing revenue. “All of our housing revenue goes into the same bucket,” Knight said. “[The business office] sends money back to our department. We’ll get an allotment as our operating budget, one for paying for cable on campus, it’s stuff like that. It is a college as a whole though that sees that drop.”

Coffman said any fluctuation—positive or negative—has a large impact on the college.

“If we could consistently have a number—that’s our goal,” Coffman said. “An official goal for fall 2017 has not been set. It will be set at the fall Board of Trustees meeting. Unofficially, our staff is working towards a goal of 320 or higher.”

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About Shelby Mullis 29 Articles

Shelby Mullis is the news editor for The Franklin. She has held various positions in multimedia journalism, most recently serving as a reporter at The Republic in Columbus during Summer 2017. Shelby is also a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, Franklin College’s Indiana Statehouse news bureau, and was recently hired as a feature writer for the Franklin College Marketing and Communications Department.

This is Shelby’s second year in a leadership role and her third year on The Franklin staff. She previously held positions as a staff writer, assistant news editor and copy chief.

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