New CSUMB president seeks to increase enrollment.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
For the second year in a row, Cal State Monterey Bay is poised to fall short of its enrollment targets—and lose $2 million as a result of its disappointing numbers.
CSUMB and Humboldt State were the only two CSUs in the 23-campus system that didn’t see a gain in enrollment this fall, compared to last year, according to the CSU Chancellor’s Office. Although students are still signing up for spring classes, the $2 million general fund loss is going to hurt, says CSUMB President Dianne Harrison. And, she says, it’s only part of the financial impact.
“If you don’t have the students paying fees, paying dorm room rent and who aren’t buying meal plans, there is a domino effect,” Harrison says. “Ultimately, we have to get our enrollment right—no question about it.”
CSUMB told the state it would enroll 3,850 full-time equivalent students (FTEs) over the summer and fall of this year and spring 2007. But university officials expect the 11-year-old campus to fall 360 FTEs short of this target. Last fiscal year, CSUMB fell 120 FTEs short of its enrollment target.
In the past the CSU Chancellor’s Office has given campuses a 2 percent window to make their enrollment projections. But this year the state will take back money, which is allocated to fund the cost of instruction, financial aid and space for new students.
For CSUMB, the loss in revenue will likely result in some belt tightening or dipping into the university’s reserves. Meanwhile, campus officials are scrambling to reverse the enrollment trend.
CSUMB has steadily added students through most of its short tenure as a military base converted to a university. In the fall of 2004, the campus’ enrollment peaked at about 3,950 students. The student population dropped by about 170 students last fall and increased slightly to 3,818 students enrolled this semester.
Campus officials cite past budget cuts as factors in the enrollment slip. Harrison says fewer resources were given to recruiting, admitting and registering students to protect cuts from hitting the classroom.
“We weren’t ramped up to be competitive in the admissions process,” says Sue Borrego, vice president of student affairs at CSUMB. Borrego joined the campus in August 2005.
Harrison is also new, having arrived in June. These two administrators say increasing enrollment is now a top priority.
Students can now be admitted to CSUMB within 48 hours if they meet the requirements, whereas before it took three months, Borrego says. The campus is also aggressively recruiting high school and middle school students from Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.
It’s part of the university’s “Vision Statement” to fill its classrooms with students from the tri-county area. But it’s a challenging pool to draw from. Borrego says less than 30 percent of area students graduating from high school are CSU-ready, and of that, about 15 percent choose to go on to a four-year university.
About 38 percent of CSUMB students who enrolled in the fall of 2006 are from the tri-county area. Another 42 percent of students are evenly split from northern and southern California.
Even among high school grads looking to attend college, CSUMB has to compete with CSU campuses that aren’t on an isolated former military base surrounded by abandoned buildings.
Harrison says other CSUs have nice, new student union buildings. CSUMB doesn’t. The sooner the university can tear down the old buildings and put up new ones the better, she says.
The campus is already moving in that direction. In October, CSUMB started construction on a new, three-story library that will have space for 573,000 books and seating for more than 600 students. The same month, the university starting moving dirt on new softball and baseball fields.
Since CSUMB is not known for its football—it doesn’t even have a team—the campus is trying to lure students through other means. For example: its small classrooms, which average 23 students per class. The university also offers affordable on-campus housing. A majority of CSUMB students live on campus, while most CSUs are commuter campuses.
The university’s curriculum has also been nationally recognized. CSUMB requires graduates to apply their skills in the community through service learning classes and to also do a senior project called a capstone.
CSUMB doesn’t offer traditional majors like science and film; instead it has interdisciplinary majors like Earth Science Systems & Policy and Teledramatic Arts and Technology (ESSP and TAT for the acronym-adoring CSUMB students).
But the names of these majors alone pose a recruiting challenge. Students may not recognize the field of study they are looking for from these unique titles. Business Administration, for example, used to be called Management & International Entrepreneurship. When the name was changed in 2003, Harrison says its enrollment tripled.
Dan Fernandez, chairman of the Academic Senate and physics professor at CSUMB, says the campus is considering other name changes and is also adding majors to attract more students. Biology, for example, is expected to be offered as a major next fall, Fernandez says.
Although changes have been implemented, campus officials say it could take a year and a half to two years to see associated enrollment gains. But Harrison is confident that CSUMB will get back on target and eventually grow as planned to more than 8,000 students by 2016.
“I think that we are taking the right steps to turn the enrollment ship around,” she says.
|THE WEEKLY TALLY||$800,000||
The average amount of damage created per Christmas tree fire in 2004, enough to buy 361 million feet of flame retardant tinsel—which would encircle the Earth twice. Source: National Fire Protection Association; Do It Best Corporation.