Holding a mixed bag of enrollment data, the commissioner of Utah's System of Higher Education has restricted public access to this semester's tally until a report can be discussed with all college presidents.
Higher education officials were told last week in a memo from Commissioner Cecelia H. Foxley to withhold the release of numbers indicating how many students have signed up for classes at the state's nine public colleges and universities."The semester enrollment figures will be available soon, and preliminary indications are mixed," she wrote Sept. 16. "We all anticipated a different enrollment pattern this fall as students accelerated course work to finish before the start of the semester."
Foxley on Tuesday said she does not see her memorandum as a request to control public information but as an attempt to work through glitches in the maiden year of the semester system.
"We thought it best to look at all the numbers together and let the presidents have an opportunity to ask questions," she said. "This is not a restriction of public information. It is making sure all of the numbers are accurate" so numbers are not misrepresented.
It has been practice to make enrollment figures public after the 15th day of class, or the conclusion of the three-week window students have to add or drop classes. All colleges passed that mark Monday.
By mandate of the Board of Regents, all state-run campuses accommodated a switch to the semester system three weeks ago. Utah Valley State College converted to the schedule, which is roughly 15 weeks, in 1990.
With the schedule change, enrollments for full-time students and concurrent enrollment numbers are calculated differently. Officials wanted time to make sure the new matrix is working properly before the results were released, Foxley said.
"We want to make sure all the numbers are verified," she said. "It's not as simple as it seems on the surface."
Utah Valley State College President Kerry D. Romesburg, Utah's longest tenured college president, said Foxley's request is unprecedented in the 10 years he's been at UVSC.
Stemming from the change, most schools anticipated lower or flat enrollment figures, and higher education officials have expressed such to the Legislature, which has agreed not to hold this year's enrollment against the institutions, Foxley said. Enrollment drives state funding to the schools.
A large number of students pushed to graduate last year, many over the summer, rather than get stuck in conversion bureaucracy. And, the higher up-front costs for the lengthened term also could have forced some students to work through the current semester to pay for the next.
In the memo, Foxley said a sys-tem-wide report will be compiled and discussed in an upcoming meeting with school presidents before the information is made public.
Foxley says tallies will be needed as soon as possible, in order to make the annual report on higher education to the Legislature and governor, as required by law. The regents meet Oct. 15-16.
In the memo, Foxley said an official report from the Board of Regents comparing all institutions "may help take the spotlight off the institutions that experienced an enrollment decline and show a more inclusive enrollment pic-ture."
If UVSC is any indication, however, schools that struggle this year won't falter long.
Utah Valley, which suffered a 1.1 percent dip in student numbers when it changed to semesters, witnessed a 14 percent increase over last year's count of students who are taking at least one class at the Orem school.
UVSC's official third-week number obtained by the Deseret News indicated 18,174 students are taking classes. The percentage of students taking at least 12 credit hours rose 11 percent to 11,668.
"That FTE jump is just enormous," said Derek Hall, school spokesman.
University of Utah officials, though they have not released enrollment figures, last week said they were pleased with the conversion to semesters.
"This was as smooth a transition to the semester system as there could be," U. Board of Trustees chairman Jim Jardine said.
U. officials have indicated enrollments are slightly down from last year, considering the rush to graduate within the quarter system over the summer. Numbers taken the first day of class showed the freshman class is up 500 students from 1997.
"This year's opening was the smoothest I've ever experienced in my 10 years in administration," said U. President Bernard Machen. "It's an incredible tribute to faculty, staff and students that we've been able to pull this off."