Despite hard times, or because of them, CEU enrollment rises
The College of Eastern Utah recently experienced record growth amidst huge statewide budget cuts, according to the Utah System of Higher Education.
CEU's increased enrollment is largely due to the increased success of their Blanding campus.
Reaching out to the Navajo nation and implementing courses emphasizing trucking/ heavy equipment operating and medical coding fields, the Blanding campus had a 58 percent increase in enrollment, according to Brad King, vice president of the Institutional Advising Student Services.
He also said that the Blanding campus accounts for almost one-half of total enrollment for the college. CEU's main campus had a 12 percent increase.
The majority of those students were non-residents. Lower tuition for international students and recruiting efforts by the sports teams from outside the state and country led to this increase.
Marketing efforts from the college, namely promotional advertisements on Comcast, have been successful in getting CEU's name out to the masses. High school tours and literature sent to juniors and seniors are other means of in-state recruiting, according to King.
According to a press release from CEU, the Blanding campus has been working hard to increase enrollment using new approaches to recruiting and retaining students. Virgil Caldwell, director of outreach and program development at CEU San Juan Campus, said that, "About five years ago, we came to a strategic realization that we needed newer ways of doing the education business." Caldwell said they recognized they could make smarter decisions about growth at San Juan by using real data to maximize the return on recruiting dollars.
The key to success, Caldwell said, is a "willingness to consider new ideas before saying, 'no, we can't do that' and considering maximizing the current technology we have with the support of UEN [Utah Education Network]."
The Blanding campus uses the Geographic Information System (GIS) platform for a custom "future student" database that identifies the location and career interests of potential students. The database helps reduce the "guesswork of where recruiting efforts make maximum payoff," says Caldwell. An important part of San Juan's growth strategy is listening to people in the community, in order to learn what their educational needs are and working to develop programs to meet those needs.
"We must be the idea agent for the customer," says Caldwell. Being an idea agent requires creativity and building a relationship of trust with the community.
According to a press release from CEU, USHE had a student enrollment increase for the spring 2010 semester of 9.48 percent, amounting to 13,104 students statewide. This year-over-year increase is the largest in USHE history.
This unprecedented enrollment boom, combined with historic budget cuts, is stretching campus resources, making it difficult to expand capacity to meet the demands of new growth without needed state funding.
CEU has stopped offering five certificate programs including: Associate of Applied Science and one-year certificate in graphic design, Associate of Applied Science in Electronics with modifications to the one-year certificate, Associate of Applied Science in Building Construction Management with modifications to the one-year certificate, Associate of Applied Science in Computer Networking and the one-year certificate and Associate of Applied Science in Administrative Assistant/Information Processing Specialist. CEU has cut 58 positions over the last two years, mostly affecting staff and administration. "Our greatest hope is to reduce the amount of mandated cuts," Brad King said. "The college has already reduced operating costs in all departments by 25 percent. Any more cuts would have to affect personnel."
"These cuts are not expected to affect the quality of learning provided by the college or increase necessary time to graduate due to discontinued classes. Other schools with larger student populations along the Wasatch Front will probably be affected," King continued.
Utah's colleges and universities experienced a historic 17 percent budget decrease in the 2009 state legislative session. They were mitigated by a one-time backfill of 8.5 percent from federal stimulus money.
Governor Herbert has recommended permanently funding this backfill, to avoid further cuts. In contrast, legislative leaders are currently considering cuts as deep as 22 percent by July 2010, according to USHE.
The state's budget picture for fiscal year 2011 is still somewhat cloudy, though the revenue figures that serve as the basis for the budget were approved by the Executive Appropriations committee on Feb. 16.
The real work now begins in the legislature, to determine the final budget. CEU hopes the governor can have some influence and higher education is spared additional cuts, according to the President's Report to the CEU Board of Trustee's prepared by Mike King, CEU interim president.