Enrollment growth, top of chancellor's to-do list

Another 18 percent enrollment drop will cost school $600,000
Posted Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 7:28pm

Enrollment management was the central discussion point presented by Chancellor Joe Peterson in two-campus meetings on Jan. 30. “Time is our enemy,” he said seeking feedback and ideas to “set ourselves right on enrollment patterns.”

He quoted the Scannel and Kurz documents, “To address our falling enrollments, we [Eastern] must ‘determine mission and priorities . . .Eastern has not considered its own strengths and weaknesses, the new environment brought about by the merger, and, given the strengths and weaknesses of other colleges in the market, the most advantageous educational roles to assume.’”

Peterson continued, Higher education is another good example of a competitive monopoly.  USU Eastern offers products that are relatively similar to products offered by a small number of other firms in the same market. 

He said that we must find and motivate students to come here [USU Eastern]. Utah County has 536,000 people and Salt Lake County has 1.8 million. We need to find “who and why” they are interested in coming to USU Eastern. “

He said every college wants students with a 32 or better ACT score. We want those students plus others who are great students, but cannot get into enrollment-capped colleges because of not-so perfect ACT scores or GPAs. We do not think of ourselves as a dumping ground, but as working with rising stars.

Enrollment at USU Eastern dropped 18 percent from spring 2011. That’s a loss of $600,000 on our base budget that USU Eastern collects from tuition.

Peterson made reference to an earlier e-mail he sent to faculy and staff that read, “While the College offers many products (CTE, non-credit, etc.), for now let’s focus on Eastern’s largest product, lower-division education.  Think of the other “firms” that also offer lower-division education in Utah – Snow College, SLCC, BYU, UVU, etc.  If you ask students how lower-division education differs at these institutions, they may offer some vague ideas, but generally the level of differentiation is quite low.

“In such a market setting, how can Eastern succeed in ‘selling’ its version of lower-division education?  How will Eastern identify prospective buyers who, after having reviewed the options, will choose Eastern’s offering over other institutions’ offerings?  First, it must differentiate. So given this basic economic and enrollment theory, what is he traditional wisdom for colleges like Eastern in competitive monopolies.”

He discussed his email that said, Eastern needs t-o “Intelligently identify ‘prospect pools’ that are niche markets with particular educational needs to which Eastern can appeal. We must differentiate Eastern’s product – or show how its offerings address the prospects’ perceived needs, such that the prospects will be compelled to seek Eastern’s offerings over others’ offerings. We must extend Eastern’s product – or create ‘magnet programs” that opportunistically appeal to specific educational needs that may not be found among Eastern’s competitors and advertise.

He quoted his wife Becky who told him that students can earn USU credit at a community college price. Another theme for USU Eastern was get 50 percent off your first two years at USU. Tuition at USU Eastern is $2,472 per year, at USU it is $4,738.

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