Freshman enrollment down

Each fall enrollment numbers are collected and turned into the US Census Bureau.

On average the JSC welcomes 276 new students a year. The number of incoming freshman this fall according to official census numbers released on Oct. 15 are the lowest the college has seen in five years at 240 students, the highest being in 2008 at 304 freshmen.

“Enrollment is off by about 5% for this year compared to last year,” said JSC President Barbara Murphy. “We are studying those numbers.”

 With fewer students comes less tuition money. As a state college, JSC should receive most of its money from the state to help cover expenses but realistically students pay 85% of the cost.

“For this year, we are able to meet our decline in revenues by some budget adjustments and by some fortuitous circumstances. For example, we have a good contract for heating oil and propane that comes in $217,000 below what we had budgeted,” said Murphy. “Looking ahead, we see the harder budget work to do. We are already planning for next year to draft a balanced budget. The key to revenue for us is successful enrollment and, as our College Plan states, enrollment is a college wide commitment.”

The number of campus based undergraduate and graduate students has dropped at JSC, according to the 2012 census numbers, while the number of EDP (External Degree Program) students has risen.

 According to JSC Registrar Doug Eastman, the trend for the past eight years for campus-based undergraduate students at JSC has fluctuated, with a rise in tuition between 2007 and 2009, then slowly declining again.

Enrollment of Vermont resident EDP students has seen a consistent rise since 2004. While graduate student numbers were rising in 2004 and 2005, they have had a steady decline since then, except for 2009 when they briefly rose. “Our number of graduate students at JSC increased over last year,” said Murphy.

Other programs offered at JSC like high school students taking classes saw a steady increase from 2004 to 2008 when they were cut by more than half and continue to plummet.

“Our work is to continue to educate Vermont high school students about the value of a college education and the rich programs at Johnson State College,” said Murphy.

Also non-degree students (graduate and undergraduate) saw a rise between 2004 and 2007. In 2008, non-degree undergrad enrollment dropped, only to rise again in 2011. Non-degree graduate students rose until 2009, when a steady declined started.

Total overall enrollment at JSC ranges between 1,866 (lowest enrollment in 2004) to 2000 students (highest enrollment in 2009) with the numbers fluctuating over the years. “Our number of entering out-of- state students, first-year and transfer, is consistent with last year’s numbers; but we saw our number of entering Vermont freshmen decline,” said Murphy.

What does this mean for students and the college? “I believe the budget cuts will be small,” said Murphy. “Budget areas know their working budgets for the year; departments, as well, know their part time faculty budgets. We were able to make most of the adjustments by using a small reserve from the academic dean’s office, modifying plans for summer, 2013, and distributing the balance of the needed reductions across the departments.”

Will students end up paying more for school because others are deciding not to go? “Tuition will stay the same for the 2012-2013 academic year. At its meeting of February 2, 2012, the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees approved a two-year tuition rate of 4%,” said Murphy. “Full-time tuition for 2013-2014 academic year will be $9285; out of state rate will be $20,766.”