Minnesota State colleges see lower enrollment, better finances

ST. PAUL — Enrollment fell for a seventh consecutive year in 2018, yet Minnesota State colleges and universities made progress on several markers of financial health.

Just four of the public higher education system’s 37 schools scored low enough on a budgetary stress test to trigger a financial plan with the system office in St. Paul. That’s down from 10 the year before and 19 schools in 2015.

Chief Financial Officer Laura King said school leaders are managing expenses and adding cash to their reserve funds.

“We continue to see strong financial management at the campuses,” she told the Board of Trustees on Wednesday. March 20.

It helped that lawmakers broke from recent practice and allowed Minnesota State schools to raise tuition last year.

Full-year equivalent student enrollment in 2018 fell by 2.1 percent, continuing a seven-year slide. The number of credits taken has dropped by 18 percent since peaking in 2011 as the state’s economy has recovered.

King expects a 1.8 percent enrollment decline this school year and another slight decline in 2020 before a modest rebound a year later.

“We think that the enrollment trend … is starting to bottom out,” she said.

Ron Anderson, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said the system has sought to boost enrollment by making it easier to transfer credits among colleges and universities and by allowing underprepared students to earn college credits without first taking remedial classes.