Officials: SEMO experiences no financial hardship this year from enrollment decline

Thursday, October 11, 2018

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Southeast Missouri State University’s enrollment decline has not posed a financial hardship because state aid wasn’t slashed by 10 percent as originally forecast, school officials said Friday.

Kathy Mangels, vice president for finance and administration, said fewer students results in less tuition revenue.

On average this year, one full-time student provides the school with $4,700 in tuition revenue after scholarship costs are subtracted, Mangels said.

Tuition and other student fees account for about 60 percent of general operating income, school officials said earlier this year.

Mangels said the university initially crafted an operating budget for the current fiscal year envisioning less state aid. Instead, state aid remained flat, which offset the decrease in tuition revenue, she said.

“The other thing is, we don’t fully budget our anticipated revenue,” she said. “We keep some (revenue) back in contingency.”

Mangels said such budgeting means “when you have years like this, it is not the big hit to your budget that some might anticipate.”

Southeast has more than 400 fewer undergraduate and graduate students enrolled this fall compared to fall 2017. The total head count, which includes full- and part-time students, stands at just more than 11,000 this fall, according to the university.

Southeast officials said the 3.7 percent drop in fall enrollment compared to a year ago reflects growing competition among schools for a smaller number of prospective students.

Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success, said it’s estimated there will be some 64,000 fewer students graduating from high schools in the Midwest over the next decade. That would be a 9 percent drop in the pool of prospective students from which universities and colleges could recruit, according to the data.

Freshmen enrollment at Southeast is down 12.8 percent this fall.

Below said given the demographics, a continuing enrollment decline is likely.

Southeast is not alone, Below and Mangels said. Other schools also have experienced drops in enrollment.

While many Southeast students are from Missouri, Below said the university recruits heavily in Illinois and to a lesser extent in Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Other Midwestern institutions also are recruiting students, she said.

“Everybody is going to Illinois for students,” said Below, adding this is occurring even as the pool of prospective students from Illinois is declining.

“All colleges are dealing with the same demographics,” she said.

Southeast’s enrollment drop does not reflect on the school’s quality of education, Below said.

“I don’t see the number as a reflection of the institution, I see it as reflection of the demographics,” she said.