- the firing of 55 employees
- the promise to bring them back
- the failure to do so
- the Larry Peterson reorganization plan that was to revitalize enrollment
The focus of this post will be the difficulty of determining the success, or lack thereof, of the last point. At the March 2016 BOT meeting, the layoffs occurred, including of tenured faculty. No explanation has ever been given of the criteria used to identify who was to be terminated. Then Interim President Ron House stated that this was only a budgetary measure and that the intention was to bring these people back. Months have gone by. His interim status has changed to permanent. Some, who have allowed themselves to acquiesce to the new regime, have been promoted to vice presidencies and deanships. The new regime includes meeker faculty (grateful to have been called back or no longer trusting their tenure) and part time teachers attempting to fill the shoes of long time staff who are putting houses on the market, seeking jobs out of state, starting over in their 50s and those leaving higher education all together. ...Sorry! We will return to this subject many times. It's just important to remind ourselves as the new year starts, that everything is not OK for everybody. ...On to today's subject: enrollment counts.
In the next month, JALC will be reporting Spring 2017 enrollment. Before that happens, let's review the gibberish that was given the Southern Illinoisan on September 11, 2016, regarding this Fall's enrollment. Seriously. Follow the link to see what was provided to the Southern. The press, public and governing boards are always interested in one thing, each term. Is enrollment up or down? The only way to determine this is to compare a given term to the same term of the preceding year or years. Comparisons must be exact. Apples to apples. Inexact, or changing, methods, lead to errors, mistrust and accusations.
Director of Institutional Research, Eric Pulley, reported to the Board of Trustees, August 30, that Fall 2016 enrollment was up 16.3% (552 students) over Fall 2015. This includes, for Fall 2016, 3,948 credit seeking students. For Fall 2015, it includes 3,921 credit seeking students minus a made up number of 784 plus a made up number of 259, for a total of 3,396. The 3,396 was subtracted from 3,948 to come up with a supposed increase of 552 (or 16.3%).
Confused? You should be. This is an attempt to compare apples to oranges.
JALC apparently did not conduct a purge Fall 2015. However, to arrive at these numbers, they claim to have taken an average percentage of registrations that are usually purged, arrived at a number (759) and subtracted it from the original 3,921. They then added back an estimated number of people they thought would have re-registered if they'd been registered in the first place, got purged and then decided they really wanted to come. This number was 259. So, 3921 - 784 + 259 = 3396. This is the number they subtracted from 3,948 to get their 552 student increase. ...The problem is two fold. First, they literally made up numbers for Fall 2015 and, second, they failed to subtract real people from the Fall 2016 count that they subtracted by guestimate from the Fall 2015 count.
This makes a difference two ways. The lower 2015 numbers appear to be, the better 2016 enrollment will look. Failing to subtract the purged 2016 students inflates the 2016 number and, again, makes Fall 2016 enrollment look better.
This may not be nefarious, but it also fails to give the Board, ICCB, the press or the public an accurate picture of the College's enrollment. Changing procedures makes comparisons difficult. Deciding not to conduct a traditional procedure, such as the purge, will make longitudinal studies impossible. The institution should accurately report the results, take the one time PR hit that the lower numbers would cause and move on. Headcounts should be made at the same time, in the same manner, each year, comparing like terms (fall to fall; and spring to spring, not fall to spring). Some of the confusion may be due to unfamiliarity with new reporting tools. The term 'Higher Reach students' is used in both the information given to the Southern, and in the report given to the BOT on August 30. This seems not to be a class of students, but, we suspect, Jenzebar student information system vocabulary.
Let's review the numbers and then compare apples to apples and see what we get. We've made a chart, below. Using Mr. Pulley's numbers to subtract the non-credit courses from each year, we agree with his counts of credit seeking students enrolled in advance of the purge (3948 - 3921 = 27, an increase of 0.7%). Then we diverge.
The Southern quotes Matt Berry, of the Illinois Community College Board as saying, " The fall enrollment reporting will include everyone who is enrolled in credit bearing courses... If a CPR course leads to a certification and provides college credit, the student would be counted in fall numbers. If the purge occurred before data was reported, but within the reporting time frame and the student was no longer enrolled due to the purge they would not be counted in the enrollment numbers as they are no longer enrolled at the college." We interpret this to mean that if a student was enrolled Fall 2015, at the time of the count, they should be included. If there was no purge that year, they were enrolled and should be counted. Conversely, we interpret it to mean if students were purged, as 249 were in Fall 2016, they may not be included. For Fall 2016, 3,948 were registered. Those students minus the 249 purged leaves 3,699 enrolled for Fall 2016. That 3699 - 3921 registered for Fall 2015 is -222, a loss of 5.7% from the previous year.
If we use the guestimates for Fall 2015, giving us the 3,396 number, we must subtract the purge for Fall 2016. Again, that's 3,699. The difference, 3699 - 3396 = 303, an increase of 8.9% over Fall 2015. Respectable, but not the 16.3% increase.
So, there it is. They are down 222, or up 303, but they are not up 552. That, even by their methods, would be apples and oranges.
|Fall 2015||Fall 2016||diff.||% diff.|
|Credit and non credit enrollment||4313||4406||93||2.2%|
|Non credit (Continuing Ed and Center for Business and Industry||392||458||66||16.8%|
|Headcount of enrolled credit seeking students prior to purge||3921||3948||27||0.7%|
|Number of students purged||0||249||249|
|Actual headcount, after purge||3921||3699||-222||-5.7%|
|Guestimated FL 15 purge||784||249||-535||-68.2%|
|Headcount, after guestimated '15 purge||3137||3699||562||17.9%|
|Guestimated returned after purge||259||0||-259|
|Headcount, after guestimated '15 purge plus returnees||3396||3699||303||8.9%|