Drop in enrollment results in loss of tuition revenue

Emma Collins

A drop in enrollment for fall 2017 has caused a 3 percent loss in tuition revenue, further straining WKU’s budget, according to the 2017 fall enrollment report presented at the quarterly Board of Regents meeting.

The 3 percent drop in enrollment has resulted in an approximate $2.3 million loss of revenue for the fall semester, said Ann Mead, senior vice president for finance and administration. Mead said the loss of $2.3 million excludes costs of dual-credit courses. While final numbers aren’t known, Mead said the loss of revenue could be higher when all factors are added in.

“Essentially we could end up $4 to $5 million short,” Mead said.

The enrollment report monopolized most of the discussion at the Board of Regents meeting today, where the regents and WKU President Timothy Caboni discussed options to increase the rate of enrollment and retention.

“If this trend continues, obviously we have to reverse it,” regent John Ridley said. “This is a pretty serious matter in my mind.”

Caboni said WKU needs to determine if students who can succeed academically are being accepted to WKU and if assistance is being provided to help students’ success.

Caboni said one option for increasing enrollment is enrolling more students who participated in the dual-credit courses in high school. The enrollment report shows the number of high school students enrolled at WKU has increased by 1,409 students since 2013.

Caboni said WKU needs to specifically target these students and recruit them to come to WKU.

“I feel like there’s a crop of potential students that rich for us,” Caboni said.

Brian Meredith, the chief enrollment and graduation officer, said dual-credit students do receive benefits from WKU such as free entry to athletic games, but many of them see themselves as taking college-credit courses instead of college-credit courses offered by WKU.

Enrollment for international students, who pay $26,160 per year, also decreased by nearly 29 percent, causing an additional loss of nearly $6 million. Saudi Arabia and China, the countries with the most students enrolled at WKU, saw a 29.5 percent and 34.8 percent decrease in enrollment, respectively.

Meredith said the loss of international students was expected and many universities are seeing similar drops in international enrollment due to the current political climate.

The board also authorized WKU to assume ownership of three properties on Normal Street, Alumni Avenue and Nashville Road. A portion of the property on Nashville Road was given to the WKU Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting the welfare of WKU.

Faculty Regent Barbara Burch was honored during the meeting and thanked for her service to WKU. The meeting was scheduled to be Burch’s last meeting, but two inconclusive faculty regent elections prevented the swearing in of a new faculty regent.

The board also approved the creation of the Kelly M. Burch Institute for Transformative Practice in Higher Education. Kelly Burch is the late daughter of Barbara and Ken Burch and a WKU graduate.

John Paul Blair, interim vice president for development and alumni relations, said the organization’s mission is to “serve as the catalyst for the cultivation and support of innovative practices and research initiatives related to student success.” He said the organization will focus research on retention, graduation and data-driven practices leading to student success.

The board spent a portion of the meeting in a closed session for a “discussion which may lead to the discipline or dismissal of an individual employee,” according to the agenda. Philip Bale, Board of Regents chair, said no formal action was taken during the closed session.

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].