Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hey, Harrisburg University....your pants are on fire!

One of the things this blog has consistently cried foul about is the way the Harrisburg University presents false enrollment numbers.We've heard the provost make claims of "everyone does it" and the president claim that HACC does it and even the Chairman of the Board of Trustees thinks it fine to lie about enrollment numbers. I know what you're thinking "Oh no, not another post about enrollment numbers!", but please read on.

No wonder reporters like Eric Veronikis from the Patriot-News can't make sense of the numbers the university is putting out there. In the recent article  Harrisburg University of Science and Technology will celebrate its 10th anniversary, Veronikis is all over the place about enrollment numbers. He writes:

"Today, 368 full-time students attend HU, and 1,022 are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs."

"In a few years, HU hopes to enroll 1,000 students".

"To have 1,000 undergraduates in downtown Harrisburg, that will change fundamentally what happens downtown" (quoting the Provost).

"The school currently has 368 full-time students" .

"1,020 students are enrolled in HU courses".

And this is all in ONE article! Clearly, the article is a pile of fluff; the reporter isn't doing an investigative report. We'll cut Veronikis some slack since he's obviously getting his data from Harrisburg University.

What is Enrollment?

Seems like a stupid question right? The reason it needs to be defined is that the U.S Department of Education is under mandate by Congress to track higher education data. The collective data would be useless if the individual data was not strictly defined. The "comparing apples to oranges" idiom comes into play here.

The U.S. Department of Education defines annual enrollment like this: "Institutions report an unduplicated head count for the total number of students.....enrolled throughout the reporting period. Students included are those enrolled in any courses leading to a degree or other formal award, as well as those enrolled in courses that are part of a terminal vocational or occupational program." So for example, individuals that take a cooking class, go to a weekend conference or are dual-enrolled high school students are not enrolled in the institution.

Knowing this, Harrisburg University still claims a "total student enrollment" of 1022 students.

Source: 12/11/11

The truth is (there is that phrase again), Harrisburg University has an enrollment of less than 400. There are not now, nor were there ever 1022 students wandering around downtown Harrisburg like our administrators imply. As with just about everything at Harrisburg University, the 1022 number is designed to give you a false impression. Administration is trying to hoodwink you into thinking they are doing a great job. The exact opposite is true; Harrisburg University has missed enrollment projections for at least the past three years.

HU Report of Self Study 2008-09

So what?

By itself, a little exaggeration about numbers to improve how you look to the public isn't a mortal sin, particularly to a business-minded administration that thinks stretching the truth in advertising is just fine. But the university also misstates faculty numbers ("41 person-faculty" and "15 full-time faculty") hides their retention rates, misleads the public about NSF grants, has fake research centers and makes ridiculous job placement claims. All of this together is meant to deceive the public and students.

At a normal institution, administrators are fired for this type of dishonesty. Just this year:

* The provost of Iona College was fired for misrepresenting various kinds of student data to improve college rankings. Iona College was open and honest about the errors and took immediate corrective action.

* An Assistant Dean at the University of Illinois resigned after he was caught misstating student numbers.

* Villanova University fired several employees for knowingly reporting inaccurate student data. Villanova's Dean did not shrug off the misstatements, but instead immediately started an internal investigation and hired a national law firm to conduct an audit.

* Dickinson State University's president was fired for inflating enrollment numbers and for creating an intimidating environment. Those who were misidentified as enrolled students included members of the general public and high-school students seeking dual credit. An auditor's reports said "The....leadership has created a campus culture that is divided, one of distrust, disrespect, and staff being pressured to engage in unethical, suspect, or wasteful activities to meet demands." (That sounds familiar.)

Is the picture that our administrators painting for the public a reality? Do we have 1022 students, 40+ faculty and a thriving community? Or do we have less than 400 students, a handful of working faculty, bottom of the barrel retention, students on the edge of open revolt, students that are tired of being lied to and ripped off, an unhappy faculty and staff, clueless administrators, unqualified administrators, bloated administrative salaries, a useless board of trustees, and financial problems that are so severe that we have recently fired our grant writer, Director of Assessment, a science professor and an admissions councilor? That is the reality of Harrisburg University.

10th anniversary? I've heard a lot of talk from students and I must agree. It does sounds like a great opportunity to protest, doesn't it?


You can fight back. Contact local politicians, file complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.

1 comment:

  1. That's lovely! SO how long before the school loses accreditation?