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Declining enrollment not affecting MC’s future

November 10, 2017

Photo Courtesy of Monmouth College

There is an extensive history of higher education, national student enrollment, and university endowments that would be too long to write. Ultimately, the aspects listed above all come down to money and how everything changed after the recession in 2009.

Public higher education institutions primarily receive their money from net tuition, state or local appropriations, and auxiliary enterprises which are revenues generated by operations of the institutions like intercollegiate athletics. Private higher educational institutions, like Monmouth College, primarily receive their money through net tuition, auxiliary enterprises, and private gifts or donations. The state and local funding still have an impact on private institutions, but it is not as prominent as the private gifts and donations. Once the recession occurred, state appropriations became sparse which caused many public institutions to cut programs, classes, and increase tuition because it was one of the higher streams of revenue that they could control. Distinguished professor of Pennsylvania State University Roger L. Geiger writes that there will be an inevitable sacrifice of quality for education as long as public funds are being withdrawn.

The next question to ask is where does the money go? There is a multitude of factors where an institution’s money needs to go, and where they want it to go, but the monetary flow of public and private schools alike is focused on education and education-related expenses, sponsored research and scholarships, and auxiliary enterprises. Private schools heavily rely on revenue from tuition since they are without the benefit of state appropriations. After the recession, most colleges and universities needed to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate their spending trends and habits. The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities (AGB) wrote that as a result of the economic downturn the institutions are, “…reviewing asset allocation strategies, re-examining investment manager selections, and scrutinizing investment portfolios.” The institutions are still primarily focusing on the long-term success of investment tactics and decisions.

The student fits into the monetary equation by attending school and paying tuition. In the past, and somewhat in the present, schools focused on heads and large enrollment numbers rather than if those students were going to carry through with paying for tuition. Once the schools had felt the full effect of the recession, they then began focusing less on maintaining high numbers for student enrollment and rather zeroing in on the students who would actually pay their tuition and stay at the school. Initially, schools would enroll any Joe or Sally who might become severely late with their tuition payments, but with state appropriations, there was no need to fret since all that money would be backed by the state.

Basically, most higher education institutions have quietly become more selective in their enrolling process by focusing more on the finances of the students’ families wanting to attend the school. The upside to the schools changing their money management is that they have decided to assist their students more with tuition costs so that they are inclined to stay or initially apply. Instead of raising the costs of tuition, similar to the previous few years, some schools have decided to drastically slow that increase or even freeze it all together. NACUBO and AGB continue to say that the recession will affect the economic stress placed on any given family which will cause second thoughts about enrolling in any higher educational institution. The schools need to slow down or help with tuition costs in order to have a fighting chance at recovering from 2008.

Declining student enrollment is a problem for schools who blatantly ignored the effects of the recession and let financial karma catch up with them. On the other hand, Monmouth College, being a private school, did not receive many state appropriations to begin with and is quite strict with how the existing money is used. Tight financial upkeep has been a staple behind the scenes of Monmouth College for a long time and will remain that way for an even longer time to come. Yes, student enrollment might be down, but it does not mean that it is a problem that Monmouth College cannot handle.

Riley Hess
Editor in Chief

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