Thursday, June 7, 2012

Harrisburg University continues to be deceptive about student enrollment

I'm sure you've noticed how I've been complaining about the false enrollment numbers Harrisburg University has been reporting to the public (See the last enrollment related post here.) It's not illegal to lie to the public, but it is certainly unethical. Although it probably fails to meet the legal definition of fraud, it certainly is deceptive to prospective students and parents that think the institution is doing better than it is.  Students are making decisions based on this information and it should be honest and accurate. These numbers are particularly critical now that HU is borrowing money and using tuition as collateral.

Since this blog has been hammering away at Harrisburg University's deceptive public reporting, HU has made some changes to how they report enrollment numbers.

This is what they said a few months ago:

Source: 12/11/11

This is what they claim currently:

Source: 6/7/12

Well, that's a little different. If you read the last enrollment related post, you know that "enrollment" has a very specific definition in academia. So students that are "dual-enrolled" (high school students) and students that at some point in the history of the school took a class ("professional and "continuing education") are not enrolled in the school at all*. So if you go to a college and take a cooking class, you just took a cooking class, you are not enrolled in the college. Got it? [*Correction 6/14: This isn't exactly correct. For fall enrollment, dual-enrolled high school students can be and are counted as enrolled. (This is different than a 12-month total headcount.) This is bad news as this means that the fall enrollment numbers that I've been quoting include high school students, which decreases the number of traditional students who are paying tuition. Mea culpa.]

You probably noticed HU stuck "approximately 400 FTE" on the end of their statement. They are counting on the fact that you won't have any idea what that means. You probably just assumed it meant there were 400 full-time students or something like that. Don't feel bad, nobody knows what it means outside of academia. Actually, most of the people in academia don't know what it means either since nobody sits around going "Dang, our FTE is tanking, we better get on the ball!"

According to the U.S. Department of Education, FTE is defined as "The full-time equivalent (FTE) of students is a single value providing a meaningful combination of full time and part time students."

If you take take a headcount of all your students, add up all of their course loads then divide that number by 1 full course load, the sum will be the FTE by student headcount. In other words if you had a total of 4 students, two full-time and two half-time, you would have an FTE of 3. The FTE figure will be LOWER than the actual number of students enrolled.

This is HU's historical FTE information:
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This is HU's historical enrollment information:
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

So HU's total enrollment in 2010 was 373 with an FTE of 241. If we extrapolate from those numbers, HU would have to have a student enrollment of 500-600 students to achieve an FTE of 400 like they claim.

What is the actual current enrollment?
Still with me? So in the fall of 2010 there was a total enrollment of 373. HU's retention rate tells us that about 66% of the 90ish freshman that enrolled in the fall of 2010 did not come back for a second year. For simplicity sake, lets estimate 73 didn't come back for 2011.  That leaves us with 300 students plus the 100ish freshman that enrolled in the fall of 2011. So about 400 total enrollment in the fall of 2011. Again, retention rates tell us that HU will lose the majority of its freshman students. My guess would be that this year will be spectacularly bad year for retention, as students seem to have gained some clarity about their treatment at HU. But lets just stick with the 66%. That would leave HU with a current total enrollment of around 344ish. HU inflates those numbers internally by insisting that freshman "pre-register" for next fall even though they know most of them won't come back. HU's internal records therefore probably reflect about 350-400 total enrollment. For the sake of simplicity, I ignored some factors like transfers in and out so understand -- I'd say my estimates are +/- 25.

No matter how you spin the numbers, Harrisburg University still does not have "1022 total enrollment", nor do they have "approximately 400 FTE".


  1. How about telling the truth, just for once Eric? Just one time be honest about enrollment. Is it that hard to do?

  2. The enrollment numbers are just like everything else at HU: fake.

  3. Mel Schiavelli was just on WITF on June 6th and he used the "400 FTE" figure. Shocking right? Mel lied again. Just leave and enjoy your fantastic retirement- plan you money grubbing a-hole.