Little Bunny FooFoo

Little bunny Foo Foo
Went hopping through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping them on the head
Down came the Good Fairy, and she said
“Little bunny Foo Foo
I don’t want to see you
Scooping up the field mice
And Glocking them in the head.”
I’ll give you 3 chances,

And if you don’t behave, I will turn you into a goon!”

Who knew that little bunnie FooFoo was simply practicing enrollment management?

Matt Reed (@DeanDad) talks about this in his blog post and gives us this gem:

Mount St. Mary’s is a private, Catholic institution, so it isn’t subject to performance funding in a direct way. (Though it does raise the question: who would Jesus drown?) But that doesn’t make it immune to pressure to show the numbers.

My first thought was no, no, wrong church. This makes more sense in a church that believes if you hold someone underwater long enough, they will come up believing your way. Kind of like the church in which I was raised. But really, “who would Jesus drown” is just the gentler version of “kill ’em all, let God sort them out.” The latter version is really a terrible form of enrollment management as it kills your entire revenue stream.

Reed’s key point is that college president in question is trying to game the first-year retention rate (and later, the graduation rate) by ensuring any obviously iffy students are dismissed prior to them being included in official fall reporting. If you are still feeling like this is reasonable and have not experienced in moral outrage yet, let’s pursue this a bit more.

These are brand new students.

They are in their first three weeks of enrollment.

And the president has already decided they have no future at the institution.

The college had admitted them within the previous six months, with an implicit message of “Hey, we think you can be successful here. Please join us.”

What changed? Was the college that badly wrong in its admission decisions? Did the students change suddenly between application and enrollment?

The college administered a survey.  A. Survey.  (Was the Institution Review Board consulted, did it approve the survey and its intended use? Would this be a violation of federal research guidelines?)

From the Washington Post:

But the paper reported on an email exchange that expressed a desire to eliminate a certain number of students, based on the survey results, by the Sept. 25 cutoff date when the university would be required to report enrollment numbers to the federal government.

Were the students told their future at the college hinged upon their survey responses? Again, from the Post:

The Mountain Echo reporters wrote that Newman’s retention plan included administering a survey to all freshmen, with this introduction: “This year, we are going to start the Veritas Symposium by providing you with a very valuable tool that will help you discover more about yourself. This survey has been developed by a leadership team here at The Mount, and it is based on some of the leading thinking in the area of personal motivation and key factors that determine motivation, success, and happiness. We will ask you some questions about yourself that we would like you to answer as honestly as possible. There are no wrong answers.”

Looks to me, based on the limited information I have seen (and I have read the original Mountain Echo story, the editorial statement, and the letter from the board chair) that this entire process is a betrayal of ethics in research, enrollment management, and general human decency.

I think the student journalist and editors did the right thing by reporting this story. I’m glad they did.  This was awful behavior, and perhaps is the type of behavior that should put Title IV eligibility at risk for an institution.

 

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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