WSU projects $3.5-million enrollment drop but no state fiscal watch

Wright State University is projecting it will see another drop in enrollment next fall but that it could avoid state fiscal watch at the same time.

WSU is expected to incur around a 2 percent decline in enrollment that will amount to around a $3.5-million loss in revenue next fall, WSU chief business officer Walt Branson said during a community forum on the budget today. The decline follows a 2.3 percent enrollment drop from last fall, board of trustees chairman Doug Fecher said.

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Tuition revenue is Wright State’s biggest single source of income so the projections are bad news for the financially struggling university.

Even with the loss though, Wright State leaders said they believe they will avoid being put on state fiscal watch.

The state measures every public college’s fiscal health with something called a “Senate Bill 6 score,” an annual rating of 0 to 5. Any school that falls below a 1.75 two years in a row is put on notice.

Wright State projects its score this past year will be a .8, meaning one more year below a 1.75 would put the school on fiscal watch. But, the school is projecting it will earn a score of 2.2 for the current fiscal year that closes at the end of June.

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To do so, Wright State will have to stay on budget and add $6 million to its reserve fund. Wright State slashed more than $30.8 million from its fiscal year 2018 budget in June in an attempt to begin correcting years of overspending.

Wright State leaders have long called for the university to focus on boosting enrollment as a solution. Higher enrollment would mean more revenue and better times for WSU, Fecher said. For now though, that solution could be out of reach for Wright State next year’s enrollment projections come to fruition.

“You need to be careful of the good times,” Fecher said. “You can’t spend money like a drunken sailor, pardon my language. That might have happened here.”

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