Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Harrisburg University enrollment declines, does anyone care?

As many of you recall, I said back in October of last year that Harrisburg University "had a decrease in student enrollment in the neighborhood of 40-70 students". Harrisburg administration has been claiming otherwise. HU's Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Robert Dolan praised Eric Darr for "the recent growth in our enrollments". President Mel Schiavelli claimed in a June 6th radio interview that there was a "40% increase in enrollment each year for the past three years." 

So what's the truth?
We can't examine the official figures on IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) as the fall 2011 data has not yet been released. However, there is another reliable source of enrollment data. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), HU's accrediting body, reports fall enrollment data. MSCHE updated those figures in June of 2012. This is what they report in their statement of accreditation status regarding HU:

Source: MSCHE 6/19/2012

That puts Harrisburg University's fall of 2011 enrollment at 321, which is a decrease of about 50 students over the previous year.

Source: IPEDS
Source: HU Report of Self-Study 2008-09
Harrisburg University has missed enrollment projections for every year they made projections. It's clear that HU will not make its future enrollment projections. HU's failure to recruit and retain students is a fundamental failure of their tuition driven business. No students=No $.

Just a Ponzi Scheme?
Why is the Board of Trustees failing to act in the best interest of the University? The school's falling enrollment is a direct result of Darr's incompetence, yet the Board continues to support him. Mel Schiavelli has reached a level of public dishonesty where I can say "he's a liar" without fear of a lawsuit. Yet, the trustees have always fully support him. Which trustees are looking at HU and thinking "We need more of that! More lawsuits, more falling enrollment, more lies, more horrible retention, more loan defaults!"

Maybe the Board, Schiavelli and Darr simply don't care if the institution legitimately succeeds? After all, they have been wildly successful in getting over $100,000,000.00 from investors and the government. What do they have to show for all that money? A shiny parking garage with eight classrooms, comfortable chairs, a Hamster Ball of Science and a few dozen plasma TVs. Heck Senior administration has been stuffing their pocket with $5,000 a week paychecks for years. Who cares if there aren't any students?

The University appears to be nothing more than a Ponzi scheme at this point -- they keep up appearances in hopes of getting new money to pay off old debt, with no real hope of sustainability and no real substance to the institution. Since HU's genesis, that's been their modus operandi. Prior to 2007, the University had already "experienced several covenant defaults under its loan agreements" and had "requested several extensions of the maturity dates." (See the HU bond Limited Offering Memorandum) Here we are in 2012, and HU is still doing exactly the same thing with Dauphin County. They borrowed money, couldn't pay it back yet kept asking for extensions and more money.

Not only are our tax dollars directly funding HU, students are also using education grants and loans backed by the government. There are millions upon millions of our tax dollars flowing into a bogus institution. It's important that our local, state and federal representatives know the true state of affairs at Harrisburg University. HU does not deserve one more cent of our money.

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