Portsmouth, Ohio — Shawnee State University anticipates around 300 fewer students this fall and is projecting an operating budget deficit. The SSU Board of Trustees will approve a budget for the coming fiscal year during its August 24 meeting.
According to SSU President Rick Kurtz, the smaller fall-term class is the result of a combination of several factors, including decreases in the traditional college-age population, shifts in student demand for more online offerings, a downward trend in enrollment at the university over the past three years and university initiatives aimed at improving retention and degree attainment.
“Our environment in higher education has changed dramatically in the past five years,” Kurtz said. “We’ve changed with it. We are aggressively expanding online delivery. Since 2013, we’ve significantly improved student success. We now have the highest course completion and graduation rates in Shawnee State history. That means more students are reaching their goals and entering the job market with degrees that will help them continue to grow in their career fields. At the same time, our college-age population has declined in Ohio and throughout the Midwest, our primary market region, impacting our enrollment.”
Kurtz explained that tuition is Shawnee State’s primary source of revenue and the institution has taken steps to address the impact that the decline in enrollment has had on its budget — including reducing expenses, reorganizing units, and realigning academic programs. Shawnee State has also invested in growth initiatives such as expansion of online programming, academic programs in high-demand areas, and athletics teams that attract more students through scholarship opportunities.
Further response to the anticipated budget deficit will include additional reductions in Shawnee State’s operating budget. The extent of those reductions will be determined by the Board of Trustees this Friday.
“The changes in higher education that have impacted our enrollment are not temporary,” Kurtz said. “We’re making decisions to right size and organize ourselves based on a sustainable predictive model for us today and into the future — with our students and their needs at the center of everything we do. We have a long history of adapting to meet the changing needs of students and the community we serve. This isn’t the first time we’ve gone through a structural shift to become a stronger institution – and it won’t be the last.”