Welcome back to a new academic year. I hope that the summer months were productive and enjoyable. A win over APSU was a nice way to start the week, despite the rain. As I’m sure you’ve read, we’ve had some good news over the summer months across a number of fronts; including, faculty activities/awards, grant funding, and significant gifts to the U of M. I’ll continue to share details related to several gifts over the next few weeks, including the launch of a targeted capital campaign for our Lambuth campus. The news is promising on the enrollment side. Given the importance of enrollment to our overall budgeting process, it is hoped that these updates will prove educational. We also hope to transition to an enrollment strategy that clearly differentiates budget neutral (or budget negative) categories like dual enrollment (we have about 900 dual enrollment students who do not pay full tuition). Last year we had dual enrollment of 815 high school students. This year we have 900 in classes, but because of a new application/registration procedure have only processed about 345 to date. We’ll have the other 555 in the system by week’s end.
We have completed the second “purge” (identifying students who have not paid for the semester), so these enrollment numbers are likely to be reasonably stable. As you know, total enrollment fluctuates a bit from week to week depending on a host of variables. As mentioned above, the numbers summarized below are promising for several reasons and it is critical to put these numbers in context. Over the course of the last two years, the U of M has increased the number of graduates by 392 students over the record highs of previous years, with last year’s total being a record. These historic graduation numbers, coupled with several years of low enrollment, resulted in a total decline in enrollment of 1,245 students from Fall 2011 to Fall 2013. The net impact of higher graduation rates, coupled with two years of notable enrollment declines, reduces the total number of available continuing students. It’s important to recall that 62 cents of every dollar in our budget is generated from tuition and fee revenue. An added complication is that the formula funding model was not fully funded by the Tennessee Legislature this year, compounding the problem (with a net loss to the U of M of approximately $2.6 million). The intersection of these issues certainly challenges us to retain existing students at remarkably higher rates and recruit larger numbers of bright, capable incoming students.
As of late last week, following is a summary of current enrollment (Note: The categories referenced below do not include all enrollment categories, such as: audit students, non-degree students, readmits, transient students, certificate students, special status students, etc.):
|First-Time Freshman:||2,368, an increase of 220 students over the fall enrollment for 2013-14|
|Total Undergraduates||17,258 (after all dual enrollment students have registered), a decrease of 34 students from last year|
|Total Graduate Students||3,769 (a decrease of 227 over last year. Our first year doctoral students increased. Some of the decline in graduate numbers are a function of the increased graduation numbers referenced above, along with a shift of some funds to targeted doctoral programs to enhance our research infrastructure and related productivity)|
|Total Law Students||337 (a decrease of 25 over last year. The first year law class grew to 121 this year. Also recall that last year’s graduating class was among the largest in recent history at 127)|
|Total Enrollment Across All Categories||21,356 ( a decrease of 292 from last year)|
In addition to the summary numbers listed above, let me share arguably the most critical statistic from TBR. After the 3rd day of classes our total Full Time Equivalent undergraduate students stood at 16,367, a net increase of .3%. Please remember this is our full-time equivalent (not just total headcount). We fully expected to see a noticeable drop in our FTE given our significant increases in graduation numbers, along with significant reductions in total enrollment over the last two years. In short, the increase in undergraduate FTE is a good thing. It is critical for us to start to move away from just reporting total headcount since this includes dual enrollment numbers (which are budget neutral or slightly negative) and part-time students which pay reduced tuition, both of which do not translate in meaningful ways for our overall budget picture. We will transition to reporting that more accurately reflects our budget model, including: Total Undergraduate Full-time Equivalents (FTE) and Total Graduate Students. Additionally, we will introduce a mechanism that recognizes tuition paying graduate students versus those receiving waivers and stipend support.
The increase in overall undergraduate FTE suggests an increase in retention efforts, certainly a very good sign. These numbers reflect that the hard work by many is paying off. As we sort through implications for our overall budget I’ll share details as they emerge.
Thank you for your hard work. I look forward to an exciting and enjoyable year. Go Tigers.
M. David Rudd, President