ST. CLOUD -- Over the past two years, the number of students enrolling in college has declined dramatically. The fall enrollment system-wide at the Minnesota State system was down about 6.5 percent. At St. Cloud State University, the fall enrollment was down about 12 percent.

SCSU President Robbyn Wacker says the fewer students created a big budget deficit for the university, but they were able to balance the budget thanks to the federal stimulus dollars.

We had a $12.6 million deficit for 2022.  We have $11.8 million from the federal government for stimulus dollars to cover that as a one-time cover, and we'll use about $1 million that we have in reserve.

Wacker says the spring enrollment numbers at SCSU have rebounded and are down just five percent. She says the early enrollment numbers for this fall are looking better as well as students who might have put their education on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic are starting to return to finish their degrees.

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Wacker says they also offered faculty and staff an early retirement incentive with about 30 people taking that offer.  They are also not filling vacant positions as a way to balance the budget.

During the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many college students across the country chose to either delay the start of their education or put it on hold. Wacker says they are working to get those students to enroll. She says they are looking to new student markets in order to grow enrollment.

We're pivoting in getting our high-quality programs out into the online market for adult learners.  We just launched our first MBA, we're admitting our first cohort in June and these will provide an opportunity for students to enroll six different times over the academic year.

Wacker says SCSU is also trying to recruit students from other Midwestern states like Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

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