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Reaching a high in its annual unduplicated student headcount of 10,648 in fiscal year 2007, the Texas State Technical College West Texas has lost 9,141 students from that impressive count and had a mere 1,507 in FY 2012, a drop of almost 86%. See the numbers for yourself by viewing the image below, which is a screen shot taken from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s “Higher Education Accountability System” website:

TSTC WT Annual Unduplicated Headcount

TSTC WT Annual Unduplicated Headcount

Did TSTC West Texas leadership see that huge drop coming? Not according to the documentation.  First off, let’s take a look at a couple of excerpts from the TSTC West Texas Accountability Reports. According to this excerpt from their 2012 Accountability Report to the Co-Board, TSTC West Texas administrators have had the new Returned Value Funding Model on their minds and been preparing for it since 2008:

TSTC West Texas Accountability Report Jan 2012 New Paradigm & Funding Model Statement 120913

OK. They’ve had the new funding model on the brain since 2008. We can get a pretty good fix on administrators’ expectations and whether they saw the crisis coming by simply looking at their student headcount projections in their Legislative Appropriations Requests, an all-important request for state funding they send in every two years just before the next legislative session begins. We’re going to examine the latest years we have annual headcount information for at the Co-Board, 2011 & 2012.

On October 23, 2008, West Texas leadership submitted the following prediction for FY 2011:

TSTC West Texas LAR Excerpt Annual Headcount Prediction 2010-2011 Biennium

As you can see in this late 2008 prediction (above), the college’s leaders said they’d get an annual student headcount of 8,088 in FY 2011. Then, two years ticked by and they watched their enrollment numbers slipping. Accordingly, when they submitted their next LAR in August 2010, they predicted way less than half that first projection of 8,088 for FY 2011 and went for a student headcount of 3,200 instead as this image shows:

TSTC West Texas LAR Excerpt Annual Headcount Prediction 2012-2013 Biennium

Note that FY 2012 makes its first appearance in the projections, and administrators predicted the same annual student headcount for FY 2012 that they did for FY 2011: 3,200. Note also, dear reader, that TSTC submitted this last LAR projection just one month before FY 2011 actually began–one month. Now, go back up to the very first image in this post and take a look at the actual numbers, NOT projections but the ACTUAL headcounts the college actually got. TSTC West Texas leaders started out predicting 8,088 for FY 2011, then one month before the start of FY 2011, they guessed 3,200, and they finally achieved an annual student headcount in FY 2011 of 1,969, less than two thousand. Their expectations were that far off only one month before the fiscal year began. Then things got even worse in FY 2012. They predicted 3,200, as well, but when FY 2012 actually rolled around, the total annual student headcount the college actually got, as the college itself reported to the Co-Board, was only 1,507, less than half of administrators’ latest projection.

Oh yeah! Everything is going according to plan.  Not to worry!

So with FY 2011 and FY 2012* history now, what are the latest administrator projections looking like? According to the latest LAR submission (see the image below), they’ve cut their projections yet again. This time, they’re projecting 2,150 for FY 2014 and 2,260 for FY 2015.

TSTC West Texas LAR 2014-15 Student Headcount p 15 120911

Let’s hope their predictions are somewhere in the ballpark this time. I don’t think the college can stand their guesses to be 50% or more off the mark again.

My next post will discuss administrators’ tendency to lay responsibility for this catastrophic enrollment drop at the feet of the new funding model.

*Readers who examine the documentation closely may notice a significant discrepancy between the final number for FY 2012 reported by TSTC to the Texas Higher Education Board via its annual Accountability Reports (i.e., 1,507), and the number (under the “EST 2012” column: 1,950) in the last LAR submission, which, of course, was reported to the Legislative Budget Board prior to this past legislative session. The LAR’s version, which was submitted to lawmakers just before the end of FY 2012 in a request for state money, is significantly better, and the document shows steadily increasing numbers. That’s not what the Co-Board’s numbers show, and TSTC itself reports those numbers to that agency, as well. I believe TSTC reports headcount to the Co-Board later, after the end of the fiscal year. Accordingly, I have more faith in the numbers TSTC gives to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.