Ferris prepares for college, department cutbacks

Declining credit hours forces $2.1 million budget cut

Ferris State University is forced to make a $2.1 million budget cut due to the decline of credit hours on campus.

The budget for the 2013-14 year is $197,575,971 and will be approved or declined at the next Board of Trustees meeting. Credit hours are the amount of hours a student spends in a specific course per week. Student credit hours on Ferris’ Big Rapids campus are down by 2,277 compared to recent years. This decline forces the university to make cuts.

Ferris Communication Officer Marc Sheehan explained that the cut will be made at the department and college level.

“The hope will be that the average student won’t really see much of an impact in terms of decline,” Sheehan said.

Ferris President David Eisler addressed the student government assembly on the issue.

“On [Sept. 23], I announced a presidential task force on enrollment because we have some decline in student credit hours in Big Rapids this year,” Eisler said. “We would love to have students engaged in that.”

Interested students can email President Eisler for more information at eislerd@nullferris.edu.

Dual enrollment students, high school students taking college credit hours, are counted in the headcount for enrollment.

Dean of Enrollment Services Kristen Solomonson explained that dual enrollment skews the overall headcount by making it appear that there are more students than is actually the case. Dual enrollment students only take two to three credit hours, which is where the decline is felt the most.

“In 2012, we had 119 dual enrollment students, and in 2013 we had 352,” Solomonson said. “But that is statewide, including Kendall College, Ferris State Grand Rapids and main campus Big Rapids.”

“I think dual enrollment is good for the students,” Ferris communications professor Robert Loesch said. ”But I think it distorts the numbers.

Solomonson said that any small shift in numbers can be felt in the departments that are suffering low credit hours.

“One reason arts and sciences is down is because everyone takes arts and science courses through general education, so any kind of shift that happens will always be felt there,” Solomonson said.

Loesch also feels money is a big part of the credit decline on campus.

“Once students meet their general education requirements, they might be interested in other humanities classes, but they might just not be able to spare the money,” Loesch said. “Something has to change, and I think it’s the level of state funding.”

Sheehan explained that the funding the school receives goes toward running the university, paying the faculty, upkeep and supplies. State-supported funding has dramatically decreased in the past 40 years.

“Way back in the 1970s, state support would be about 75 to 80 percent in the cost of an education,” Sheehan said. “Now that number is flipped.”

Efforts by Ferris to keep traditional students while also appealing to dual enrolled students include creating a specialized communications stream for students. This is an attempt to begin to attract them during their college search process and also find ways to ensure they can afford attending the university.

“We are working toward more ways that we can attract students but at the same time make sure the students who are here can afford the classes they are taking, and make sure they can afford to take as many credits as they want or need to,” Solomonson said.

Ferris freshman pre-pharmacy major Chase Louwers was taking a full schedule at the beginning of the semester, but ended up dropping a three credit hour class.

“I was at 16 credit hours but now I’m at 13,” Louwers said. “I dropped trigonometry because I already took it in high school and, I planned on refreshing myself, except I realized how much money I was wasting and I couldn’t do that.”

The budget will be approved or declined by the Board of Trustees.

“We will reevaluate that [budget cut] come spring,” Sheehan said. “If we see a rebound and have an increase in revenue there, we will do some readjusting.