IUP: Fall enrollment down more than earlier estimates
September 13, 2013 11:00 AM
by SAM KUSIC

With IUP’s fall semester under way, the university’s overall enrollment picture has come almost into focus, and officials are disappointed, although unsurprised, by what they’re seeing — fewer students.

There are about 100 fewer students than a previous estimate, James Begany, vice president for enrollment management and communications, reported Thursday during the trustees’ quarterly meeting. All told, the university is now anticipating around 14,700 students at its Indiana campus and its Punxsutawney, Monroeville and Northpointe satellites, he said.

The most recent estimate, announced in August, put the enrollment at 14,800, a downward revision of an earlier estimate. That estimate pegged enrollment at somewhere around 15,000.

In the fall 2012 semester, IUP saw a record enrollment of 15,379. So between that number and the new enrollment estimate, IUP is probably looking at a 4.4 percent decline of its student rolls.

Officials knew a drop in enrollment was coming, owing to changing demographics in southwestern Pennsylvania. The region’s high schools simply have fewer students, and as a result, the pool of potential college students from which to recruit has shrunk.

Still, the university, up until now, had enjoyed growing enrollments — it posted record numbers of students in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in addition to 2012.

The enrollment isn’t a mere factoid, however. Its rise and fall translates directly into dollars and cents, especially as tuition and fee revenue have become IUP’s principal revenue stream.

Cornelius Wooten, vice president for administration and finance, told trustees that every 100 students generate somewhere between $600,000 and $800,000 in tuition and fee revenue. So given the new enrollment projection, and an updated estimate in performance funding, the budget has been thrown out of alignment by around $1 million.

Wooten said the difference is to be covered by tapping reserves.

As an aside, Wooten pointed out that taxpayer support accounts for 28.4 percent of projected revenues under the university’s general fund, a new low. On the other hand, tuition and fees account for 70.5 percent of revenues. Ten years ago, it was the other way around, he said.

Considering this reversal, he argues that IUP is no longer a state-supported institution, but a state-assisted institution.

In another budget matter, officials reported to the trustees that IUP’s rainy day fund yet again fell short of its mandated funding level, as of the end of fiscal 2013.

The trustees created the fund in 2004, and tasked administrators with maintaining it at an amount equal to 5 percent of its general fund. Since then, administrators generally have struggled to keep it at that level. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of fiscal 2012 that the reserve was fully funded.

At the end of fiscal 2013, the reserve stood at 4.88 percent.

But Wooten assured trustees that there’s nothing to worry about — administrators have set aside an additional $214,384, restoring the reserve to the 5 percent level.

Trustee Jonathan Mack commended Wooten and his team for being able to maintain the reserve at the required level. He said the $9.4 million it now holds puts the university in a “very healthy position” and provides some budgetary flexibility that IUP’s sister institutions may not have in these difficult financial times.

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