Enrollment at Fort Lewis College has seen a decrease that has called for a change in budget. The budget affects the number of courses and sections offered at FLC and the number of faculty members who are on the payroll.
Some departments will be merging such as, the Writing Program with the English department and the modern languages department with the Sociology department.
Under-enrollment at FLC affects when classes are offered, which classes are offered and the number of sections offered for each course.
Declining enrollment does not just affect FLC, but the city of Durango as well, which relies on FLC students to maintain the city’s economy.
The Effect of Low Enrollment on FLC
The number of courses and the number of sections for courses offered are evaluated every year. Evaluations are done in each department and college wide, Peter McCormick, School of Arts and Sciences associate dean, said.
“We want to keep our student-faculty ratio reasonable,” Mitch Davis, FLC Public Relations officer, said.
After the number of courses and sections needed have been evaluated, the number of faculty members is analyzed, Davis said. If there is a need for more sections, adjuncts or visiting professors will be brought in, he said.
A decrease in enrollment can be attributed to a number of reasons. One reason is there are not as many high school students across the country, Davis said.
Colorado has not seen as significant of a drop in the number of high school students as other states, which means other states seek to recruit Colorado students, he said.
Many high school students have chosen to attend larger universities than smaller regional schools like FLC, he said.
A small freshman class affects enrollment throughout the four years that the group is attending FLC, Davis said.
“When we have a dip in our freshman class, we sort of have to ride that out through the four years, until they graduate,” he said.
The part-time and temporary position budget was cut, which showed effects across campus, McCormick said.
Part-time and temporary positions are used to cover some lower-division courses, McCormick said.
Most lower-division courses are taught by tenure and tenure-track faculty, he said.
Adjuncts are usually part time and are more temporary-positions. They are brought in when the schedule for professors on the payroll is full and a need for additional sections for courses is encountered, Michele Peterson, associate vice president of finance and administration, said.
The budget for these positions was about $1.5 million but will be reduced to $900,000 for the 2018-19 school year, Peterson said.
Facing a $4.5 million deficit, a second was made. This cut was to lecturer positions. Tenure and tenure-track positions were not affected by these cuts, McCormick said.
The faculty cuts to composition and freshman math were made because the freshman classes coming in are smaller than before, he said.
The number of sections offered for composition and math courses were also reduced, he said.
Some English department professors will teach composition classes to accommodate the faculty cuts in the composition department when English and composition merge, McCormick said.
In the last year, the number of courses offered has not decreased significantly, but compared to the number of courses offered three or four years ago, there has been a significant decrease, he said.
“We’ve had to be very careful to make sure that the correct courses are being offered,” he said.
Enrollment has been going down for the last four or five years, Orien McGlamery, senior institutional analyst from the Office of Institutional Research, said.
Students have been encouraged to follow a four-year graduation plan, rather than a five- or six-year graduation plan, which has affected the number of students enrolled and for how long, McGlamery said.
This has affected enrollment because students are not staying as long as they did before, she said.
FLC gets money from the state and from tuition. A plan is being developed to cut $4.5 million from the overall budget due to the decline in enrollment, Peterson said.
The reduction was determined by the vice president level in each department, Peterson said. Each vice president was given a goal for the amount its needed to cut as their share of the $4.5 million cut. Each department developed its plan differently, she said.
Not every department was cut and the departments that were cut are not being cut by the same proportion, Peterson said.
No majors or minors have been proposed to be cut, she said.
The biology department is required to offer a certain number of guaranteed transfer courses, David Blake, chair of the biology department, said. The biology department offers 100 and 200 level courses more heavily than upper-division courses, he said.
Conflicts can arise in students’ schedules as other departments, such as chemistry, have certain courses than only offer at certain times, Blake said. The advising office keeps track of course schedule to catch conflicts, he said.
It does not happen often, but if a biology course conflicts with a Geographic Information Systems lab, the biology lecture or lab is generally moved to another time slot, he said.
Scheduling conflicts can also be accommodated by giving students the appropriate substitution for a course that does not fit a student’s schedule or graduation plan, Blake said.
Biology students are required to take lower-division courses before upper-division courses, Blake said.
Offering a high number of lower-division courses does not usually affect biology majors because students can only take upper-division courses after they have completed the prerequisites, Blake said.
The geneticist for the department recently retired and the position has not yet been filled, he said.
Upper division courses are not yet full for the 2018 fall term, Blake said.
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Courses in the chemistry and biochemistry department have not been affected by low registration, nor has any student’s path to graduation been affected by low registration, Kenny Miller, chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department, said.
Accommodations can be made for students. If additional students need to register for a class, professors can raise the cap to allow those students to register for the course, Miller said.
Many departments on campus have had to accommodate low enrollment and faculty cuts by changing the number of sections offered and how often courses are offered.
The English department is shifting to offering more lower division courses and general education courses, Michele Malach, chair of the English department, said.
This means fewer upper division courses are offered for English majors, she said.
Topics courses are now going to be offered once per year or once every other year, which reduces the number of options for majors once they need upper-division course credits, she said.
One senior lecturer in the English department has been let go, which leaves only one professor to teach creative fiction writing for writing majors, Malach said.
“We are going to be down to two people who teach writing specifically for the major, Shawn Fullmer and Candace Nadon,” she said.
Fullmer teaches creative nonfiction writing; he does not teach fiction writing, which leaves Nadon as the only fiction writing professor, Malach said.
One adjunct position has also been cut, she said.
The merging of the Writing Program, which has housed the college’s composition courses, with the English department will make the department larger, Malach said. These changes will make the department more service-oriented by offering more general education and pre-requisite courses.
The music department has had to make some changes to keep courses.
For the most part, the number of sections offered per course is the same, but some classes have changed, and some courses are taught by professors who normally would not teach them, Marc Reed, chair of the music department said.
The department has moved around adjunct positions to keep from cutting courses, he said.
In the last few years, the music department has gone from offering two sections of music theory to offering one section due to low enrollment, Reed said.
If the class were to fill up with a large number of incoming music majors, another section could be offered to allow more students to register, he said.
The move from four credit hours to three credit hours forced schedules to change, Reed said. Some courses, such as a conducting class and a music technology class, are offered during the same time slot, he said.
This caused a conflict in at least one student’s schedule, Reed said. The conducting class is offered every fall and spring, and the music technology class is only offered in fall. Being aware of this issue will hopefully help it be avoided in future scheduling, he said.
The music department cut classic guitar, Reed said. This course is not part of the liberal arts core nor is it a part of the music degree plan.
Staff reductions should also not affect students in their graduation plans, he said.
The sociology department has not canceled courses due to low registration, Rebecca Clausen, chair of the sociology department, said.
Sociology courses are not just taken by sociology majors, Clausen said. Many students from other majors are also interested in sociology, which helps keep a consistent number of students registering for these courses, she said.
The modern languages department will soon be merging with the sociology department, Clausen said. The major offered will be changed to borders and languages and will be considered part of the sociology and human services department, she said.
“The idea is, getting that language competency but in the cultural context of understanding what borders mean in our society.” she said. “It could be geographic: nation, state borders, it could be borders between the social construction of how we create differences in society, and how we think of borders of gender, race, ethnicity.”
The Effect of Low Enrollment on the City of Durango
FLC students account for about 25 percent of Durango’s economy, directly and indirectly, Dick White, mayor of Durango, said.
In a 2015 study, the college contributed $150 million per year to La Plata County, he said.
Students pay a certain amount per credit hour that goes to things like club sports, the Health/Counseling Center, student activities and the Student Union Building, Mark Mastalski, director of the Leadership Center and the advisor for the Associated Students of FLC, said. This is separate from tuition, he said.
Student fees help support the contract between ASFLC and the Durango Transit, he said. FLC students make up one-quarter of the riders on the Durango Transit, he said.
During the 2017-18 school year, students paid $62.95 per credit hour in student fees, Mastalski said.
The total accrued from student fees is based on the number of students enrolled, which means a drop in enrollment leads to a decrease in each of the funds the fees go toward, Mastalski said.
This has caused a need for the contract with the Transit to be reevaluated, he said.
FLC and the Transit need the contract to be maintained, Mastalski said. Many students rely on the Transit as their only source of transportation and the Transit would lose almost one-quarter of its riders if the contract is not maintained, he said.
The city of Durango is able to show need for a public transportation system. Students riding the Transit emphasizes that need, Mastalski said.
Student ridership assists the city in determining that there needs to be a robust transit system, he said.
Many students rely on the transit as their only form of transportation, Mastalski said.
“They’re not just using them because they want to, but because they need to.” he said.
The lower the number of students enrolled at FLC is, the lower the number of students using the Transit is, Mastalski said.
“For the size city we have, we have a very nice and robust public transit system,” Mastalski said. “Part of that reason is because they are able to demonstrate need. It doesn’t help to have buses running around with nobody on them,” he said.