Loyola bracing for huge drop in enrollment

Loyola University officials are bracing for a significant decrease in enrollment in the wake of a 35 percent drop in the number of students committing to the school by the traditional May deadline.

The dramatic decrease is detailed in a May 17 email to the university’s staff obtained by The Advocate in which President Kevin Wildes lays out several unappetizing scenarios — including the possibility of reductions in salary and compensation budgets, buyouts or a draw-down from the school’s endowment — that may be necessary to make up the millions of dollars the school will lose due to its smaller freshman class.

“An incoming first-year class of 575 students will have substantial impact on the number of courses we offer, housing and our net tuition income,” Wildes said.

The figure used in the email is a preliminary estimate based on the number of students who put down a deposit in time for the traditional May 1 deadline for new enrollments.

The matter-of-fact email expresses hope that offers of additional financial aid and renewed recruitment efforts will boost the numbers.

New estimates are expected soon, though the university administration declined to discuss what the new figures would show.

“The university cannot comment on this until we have more accurate information to provide to the university community,” spokeswoman Meredith Hartley said. “We’re gathering that data this week and will provide it immediately after to the university community.”

University officials had set a goal of bringing in 875 new first-year students and 130 new transfers to the school. But after the deposits were tallied, officials revised those projections downward, suggesting that between 525 and 700 first-year students would start in the fall semester.

The “most likely scenario,” according to the email, would only include 575 new first-year students compared with about 893 freshman that started at Loyola last year.

Overall, the school has a student population of 5,082 students, 536 faculty and about 736 staff, plus graduate assistants and student workers.

With significantly fewer new students, the school would bring in about $7.3 million less in tuition and other sources of revenue. The university on Wednesday released its budget figure for 2013-14, which is $163 million.

That would require either significant cuts or tapping into the university’s endowment, according to the email.

It’s not clear what caused the decline in enrollment but Wildes’ email suggested tuition costs might play a role. He said the university would be looking at tuition rates as it moves forward.

“This year we have experienced push back on our overall price, our net price and loan debt more so than ever before,” Wildes said. “Families have been more eager than ever to bargain and drive up offers by negotiating with several schools at once.”

Professor Ralph Tucci, a member of the University Senate, said administration officials have pointed to a “weakness in our recruiting, particularly in the local community.”

Loyola, where tuition and housing can run up to $48,782 a year, must compete for in-state students with public schools such as LSU, where costs for in-state students are roughly one-seventh as high.

Tucci said the university has made a major push to bring in out-of-state students and said signs earlier this year had been positive, with a high number of applications and a well-attended open house.

But that apparently hasn’t translated into actual enrollments.

“We still need a good chunk of in-state students; I think that’s where the weakness is,” Tucci said.

This story was changed on July 9, 2013, to correct these items:

The percent decrease in the number of students who had committed to attend by the traditional May deadline is 35 percent drop as compared to 2012. The story stated that Loyola had 953 freshmen students last year, based on figures published on the university’s website. That number was actually 893, according to a spokeswoman. The report also said the $7.3 million potential loss in revenue was 5.8 percent of the university’s budget, based on the 2012-13 revenue estimate of $126.7 million published on Loyola’s website. The university on Wednesday released its budget figure for 2013-14, which is $163 million. In addition, the name of university president Kevin Wildes was misspelled in several locations in the story. The Advocate regrets the errors.