EDITORIAL: Evaluting the big picture


The impact of decreased enrollment is beginning to make its mark on Central Michigan University.

As the College of Communication and Fine Arts, and specifically the art department, struggles amid a shrinking revenue stream, the effect of fewer students on campus is becoming clear – and it should come as no surprise.

For years, CMU has anticipated declining revenue, stemming from a decrease in student credit hours.

In July, the university announced an anticipated 5 to 7-percent decrease in undergraduate enrollment, reflected by an estimated $18 million budget deficit. Although the original estimate was announced to not be as steep as originally calculated, CMU still faces a $15 million revenue reduction from last year.

It’s a storm that’s long been looming on the horizon, and the art department appears to be feeling it first.

While the credit hour enrollment within the art department has displayed decreasing student participation, this year marked a 32-percent decrease in undergraduate enrollment within the department. However, the impact is being softened due to proactive steps being made by the department. Its response should serve as a model for all areas of campus.

For the CCFA, having received $1.6 million less revenue compared with last year – it's no easy task.

“Those numbers are significant,” the university email announcement regarding projected undergraduate enrollment read. “All of us — in every college and service unit on campus — will need to be fiscally conservative.”

For the art department, this fiscal conservation means fixed-term faculty might be dismissed.

With less students enrolling in 2-D and 3-D studio art classes, and tenured and tenure-track professors being given the priority positions, many fixed-term faculty might be seeing a decrease or elimination of their course schedules.

CCFA Dean Salma Ghanem cites two options: Cutting classes or rotating class offerings. Having chosen the latter, the university, and more specifically the CCFA, has decided to put students first.

The department is an embodiment of the shared governance philosophy. The department is taking its future into their own hands.

It’s time to realize the market is changing, and the art department is working to adjust itself to a slimmer, ultimately more fiscally effective version of its failing model.

In lieu of the budget deficit, CMU has been proactive in their approach to diversify our student body and extend recruitment efforts beyond the state of Michigan. But now more than ever, it’s time to tighten the belt.

We acknowledge that asking the university to predict enrollment is an impossible feat. However, by recognizing that the overall market for higher education is shrinking and becoming more specialized, as well as better utilizing our resources – we can work to find a right size for CMU.

And that’s exactly what is being done.

The best-equipped people – those who are directly involved with the day-to-day decisions within the college and the department – are the ones taking those steps.

By recognizing the issue and working to prevent the revenue decline from taking a significant toll on the student experience, the art department is facing reality head-on. It shows responsibility, a willingness for change and ultimately shows it has the best interest of students in mind.

We can only hope other colleges on campus take notice of these actions before an already dire situation worsens.

The time for action is now.