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President, Drury University
President, Drury University

2015 Economic Outlook: David Manuel

Posted online
Amid declining enrollment trends and a 1.5 percent budget shortfall at Drury, David Manuel leads the campus through financial challenges to its educational mission.

2015 Projection
Declining enrollment will continue to challenge schools nationwide.

SBJ: What’s on tap for Drury in 2015?
David Manuel: For Drury, specifically, we want to have a new strategic plan adopted by May. It will be a three-year strategic plan, and essentially, that will set the stage for us as we progress toward the university’s 150th anniversary in 2023. That has to drive a lot of what we do. I’m not prepared to tell you that enrollment is going to go up by such a percentage. That would be foolish. Our initiatives have to directly address enrollment management. And I think we’ll see the benefits of that in the coming years.

SBJ: Drury had a $2.3 million shortfall last academic year, with 35 positions eliminated. How did that shake out?
Manuel: We dealt with that expeditiously. In some cases, we have changed processes to eliminate the need for those adjustments in the future, but clearly we had to make some adjustments in terms of personnel.

SBJ: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, college enrollment dropped for the second straight year, coming in 2.3 percent lower. What’s driving the decline?
Manuel: It’s really fascinating because there are institutions that are extremely wealthy in terms of the size of their endowments facing the same thing, which is really curious. I won’t mention names, but institutions that you would never expect to be facing this, and indeed they are. It just confirms the pervasiveness of what higher ed is experiencing.

This fall semester, there were 300,000 fewer students than last year. That’s extraordinary. Some of it is due to the economy’s improvement. Some of it may be due to cost factors.

And a much larger portion of it we’re confident is due to the shifting demography of the country. We have fewer high school graduates throughout the states.

SBJ: After a record 2010 enrollment of 5,625, Drury’s student numbers have declined by about 6 percent per year through 2013. This fall, enrollment fell to 3,642. What does that mean for the university?
Manuel: Total enrollment was down because we had graduated one of the largest classes in Drury’s history [in spring 2014]. … We have huge enrollment initiatives that we are taking on now campuswide that address new markets, new programs, financial aid, retention and admissions. So, we are overhauling everything we do in enrollment management. … This is a 13-month initiative at this point. … You don’t turn the ship immediately. It’s a big ship. It’s not a catamaran, unfortunately.

SBJ: School officials have said no staff cuts were made this year as departments absorbed the current shortfall without impacting the student or classroom experiences. How do you think this and some new recruitment efforts will affect fall 2015 enrollment?
Manuel: Stable enrollment would probably be the best case.[[In-content Ad]]

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