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Declining Enrollment Challenges Edgewood College Officials


 

BY SHANZEH AHMAD AND YASIR ALHUMAIDAN | PHOTO BY YASIR ALHUMAIDAN

In recent years, Edgewood has seen a steady decline in undergraduate enrollment that is making cuts in staff and faculty more likely.

President Scott Flanagan spoke at the college assembly last November and explained that Edgewood’s decline in enrollment goes back to 2015. Flanagan said plans for the future will be made respective of the college’s dwindling numbers.

“I want to provide context for decisions and processes that are going to happen at the same time as we are fleshing out our strategy and financial model,” said Flanagan. “In 2015 when we saw an enrollment decline, we knew we would need to make some changes. When we model out the next three years, we see a decline in the operating margin.”

The operating margin refers to what is ultimately the college’s yearly budget. This number comes from the school’s total expenses in a year subtracted from the total revenue.

While enrollment continues to decline, the operating margin is likely to see the same outcome. “We’re operating at a decrease in enrollment at about the same staffing level in recent years,” said Flanagan. “Our financial model can’t sustain that. I’m talking about identifying areas where reductions in enrollment may give us the ability to reduce staffing levels or activities that may not be going forward.”

Edgewood’s Humanities departments have been the subject of concern for many students, staff, and faculty alike as the decline in enrollment continues. This decline is leading to more and more downsizing of classes, and even classes cancelled as a whole, in the English, History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies departments.

John Leonard, professor and chair of Religious Studies, elaborated, “With fewer students, the college will have less income from tuition and housing and, on the academic side of the house, we will not need to offer as many classes or sections of classes that are offered each semester.”

Staff and faculty who are part-time or on a non-tenure track will be the first ones targeted during this process, as they are ones who are unable to fill classes, according to Leonard. “I am indeed aware of the planning to reduce the number of employees, staff, and faculty,” said Leonard. “My understanding is that all schools and departments need to plan for the future.”

Sara Friar, co-director of the Center of Global Education, said that the number of international students at Edgewood has also declined recently. In the 2015-2016 school year, Edgewood had a total of 69 undergraduate international students. In the current year, this number has gone down to 45. “Of course, if we could share the Edgewood story even more efficiently and attract more students we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said Leonard.

The sudden decline has not gone unnoticed. “The college has put some additional efforts on recruiting international students in the past semester,” said Friar.

Christine Benedict, vice president for enrollment management agreed. Edgewood is tackling the enrollment decline by hiring an enrollment specialist who is working with earlier and more extensive outreach. “The big news is that we have had a 45 percent increase in applications compared to this time last year,” said Benedict at the college assembly in November.

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