Enrollment down again

College loses students past five years, CHS’s graduating classes up
Posted Thursday, October 11, 2007 - 12:00am

College of Eastern Utah lost 21 percent of its enrollment over the past five years according to figures released by the Utah System of Higher Education in 2006.

In 2001-02, CEU had 2,139 full-time students. In 2005-06, CEU had 1,674 full-time students, a drop of 465 Full Time Equivalent students. Enrollment figures have not been released by the Board of Regents for this year, but earlier figures released by CEU's institutional research office indicates another decline.

In that same time period, tuition went up from $1,527 to $2,090, an increase of $563 or 36 percent. Pell Grants started at $1,437,569 rose to $1,937,931 in 2003 and fell again to $1,562,879 in the 2006-07 year. Scholarships began at $1,041,630 in 2001, dropped to $872,777 in 2003 but rose to $1,218,773 in 2006-07, according to figures released by the financial aid office.

According to Sharon Jones, administrative assistant to the dean of students/residential living, campus housing has 444 beds. As of Oct. 10, 359 beds were used with 85 available

While CEU enrollment is on a downward spiral, Carbon High School graduation numbers are on an upward trend. In 2002-'03 it had 247 graduates, 2003-'04 280, 2004-'05 277, 2005-'06 272 graduates for an increase of 25 students. Emery High School remained flat with 188 graduates in 2002-03, 180 in 2003-04 and 187 in 2004-05, according to the Utah State Office of Education's website.

The Carbon School District had 3,911 students in 2001 and is projected to have 3,620 in 2007. Add Pinnacle Charter School with its 420 students, and enrollment in the area has increased 129 students, according to the Utah State Office of Education's website.

These statistics tell part of a story about the rise and fall of student populations and the fees associated with these students.

Colleges also losing students include Utah State University who is down four percent, Southern Utah University down four percent, Utah Valley State College down seven percent, Snow College down one percent and Dixie State College down .006 percent. Schools showing growth include the University of Utah increasing eight percent, Weber State University .0002 percent and Salt Lake Community College two percent, according to the Board of Regents website.

While these schools are down in numbers the enrollment for school districts state wide show a vastly different picture. Only eight districts out of 40 are down, according to Utah State Office of Education website, including Daggett, Emery, Millard, North Summit, Ogden, Park City, Salt Lake and South Summit.

To get some response from administrators and staff, two questions were posed. The first question addressed why they think enrollment has been dropping the past five years.

Terry Johnson, associate director high school/prospective student relations, said campus housing is almost full. This tells us that students are being recruited from outside the immediate area. Possible student populations have been on the decline for Carbon and surrounding counties some 35 percent. Student populations are expected to drop 10 percent statewide. Almost all institutions of higher learning are experiencing enrollment drop.

In addition to dwindling recruitment pools Johnson said that fears of U.S. Highway 6 could be partially to blame.   A few years ago Carbon County pushed the issue that Highway 6 from Green River to Spanish Fork is incredibly dangerous. This was done with the hope of obtaining funding to fix the roads through the canyon.

Now the stigma surrounding that road seems to make people have second thoughts about coming to CEU. A third possible explanation from Johnson may be due to a bustling economy, many high school students find high paying jobs and do not feel a need to obtain a college education.

The second question posed was what can CEU do to arrest the decline?

Johnson said a drastic economic boost to Price and the surrounding areas may draw families with high school-aged students. A large-scale promotional campaign denouncing that Highway 6 is such a dangerous road would almost certainly draw students but would require vast amounts of money, CEU doesn't have. The last solution suggested by Johnson is to change the minds of high school graduates. Reminding them high paying low skill jobs should be seen as a quick fix and not long term money making solution.

It is proven that college graduates make more money. But few students think long term though, this is a problem because many kids work for the rest of their lives in poor conditions, he said.

Bill Osborn, director of financial aid said, according to a survey done by CEU's academic advising office in August 2007, 68 percent of those surveyed said the biggest reason for attending CEU was the availability of scholarships. With so many students here on scholarships, it seems CEU has to buy its students.

From a financial aid perspective, CEU has lost almost $1 million in Pell Grants, money that would benefit the local economy. The loss of Pell Grant money can be attributed to the downward spiral of full-time enrollment. FTE is down 465, which in turn limits the number of Pell Grants that can be awarded.

While Pell Grants are down the number of scholarships is on the rise. Osborn attributes some of this loss to a lack of "Brand Name" by CEU. Why do people drink Diet Coke? Because it says Coke on the side.

CEU needs to find a niche that can be taken over, or taken advantage of. While the number of students coming from out-of-area schools is steady, the decline of students attending CEU from Carbon and Emery counties is amazing. If CEU had a specialty program to draw students, the school would be better off. The amazing thing is that these programs do exist here but are not actively recruited.

Graduating students from Carbon and Emery high schools are leaving to attend school further north. There is not a sense of loyalty instilled in students here, the same cannot be said for students from Cedar City, St. George and the Manti/Ephraim area. Another contributing factor Osborn talked about is the fact that concurrent enrollment is allowing students to take college classes while still in high school. These students are taking the classes but do not count towards funding CEU receives from the government.

In addition those students are not counted in the FTE report issued by CEU. While CEU has merged with WETC the students at this school do not count towards enrollment numbers. One of the biggest problems surrounding WETC is that it does not adhere to a standard credit-hour system of schooling.

Rather "clock hour" or module programs are instituted. Students can start a program and leave a program at their own discretion. The hard part is coming up with a way to convert that clock hour to a system that can be compared to traditional credit hours. An important note is that CEU does not directly fund WETC, Osborn said.

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