Ross, Gealt discuss budget, enrollment outlook for 2014-15, despite residual effects from old challenges


Because tuition accounts for almost half the revenue for Central Michigan University, decreased enrollment rates at CMU have had a direct impact on the university's budget over the last four years.

Steven Johnson, vice president of enrollment and student services, said the number of "first time in a college" students has decreased as the number of high school graduates has dropped.

"It has continued to drop and is expected to continue to drop at least through 2020 and shortly thereafter," Johnson said during the budget priorities committee forum on Monday. "Historically, we have recruited and enrolled 2.9 to 3.2 percent of the available high school graduates each year to come to CMU. That has remained relatively consistent in the last decade on that range."

The decrease in first-time students has led to a decline in enrollment across the state and Midwest, Johnson said.

"This has a direct impact on our ability to meet our enrollment goals," he said. "This trend is not pretty much unlike trends in other states. It's more dramatic in the Midwest states and particularly Michigan."

CMU has seen a decreased enrollment rate since the boom in 2010. However, Johnson said he is optimistic about the 2014-15 academic year's enrollment.

"As of April 7, there are 3,564 paid admissions compared to 3,011 total paid admissions in 2013," he said. "This is a very positive showing in regard to new freshmen. (Yet) we still have three months of activity to go."

Transfer students from community colleges also make up a fair amount of students on campus, Johnson said. The decreased number of first time students have also affected community college enrollment.

Johnson said CMU needs to focus on retention rates as well as attracting new students, as CMU's freshman to sophomore retention rate is around 77 percent.

"It's more critical we pay attention to not only the students we're trying to recruit, but also those that are on campus that need to be retained," Johnson said. "They're learning, and keeping them engaged in the campus holistically is important."

Provost Michael Gealt agreed with Johnson, stating CMU needs to focus on retention for budgetary reason.

"This is probably the place we can have the biggest impact on our four-year and six-year graduation rates," Gealt said. "These are students that are already here, and if we give them enough support, they'll be able to stay here. It's a lot cheaper for us to retain students than it is to go out and recruit students."

Gealt said the cost of keeping student and faculty members around is rising. With three groups on campus negotiating new contracts, administrators might need to allocate more money for their pay with negotiated increases.

New ways of requesting money in the budget are also being developed by administrators. New initiatives can be requested through forms that work their way up through the hierarchy, starting at the faculty and department levels and working their way up to deans and eventually the president of the university.

However, Gealt said there are times when some changes have to be made to the budget to accommodate unforeseen circumstances.

"Because of the change in internal demand, we need to respond with additional staff," Gealt said. "If there's an unfunded (state) mandate, then we need to get in there and get some funding, so there's some sufficient people to handle that."

University President George Ross said he formed the budget priorities committee so the students and faculty could have more of an input in what the money the university has goes toward.

"When I charged the committee and formed the committee, it was all about communications and transparency," Ross said. "There are lots of rumors on this campus that get started about various things, let alone the rumors about budgets and money and what's going on. This is the vehicle to inform the campus. I want people to know."

Ross is hopeful for the future of enrollment, and said the group will know final enrollment numbers in August or September this year.


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