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Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    $11.7 million in lost revenue as enrollment declines

    Sonoma State University is now facing $11.7 million in lost revenue after another semester of continued declining enrollment. 

    Approaching the second year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and changing economic standing of our nation, educators anticipated enrollment numbers would stay down. 

    According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, CSU’s have seen a 3.5% decline in enrollment, while SSU saw another 13% decline in enrollment after averaging a 6-8% decline in enrollment every semester since fall 2019. 

    SSU’s President, Judy Sakaki stated in an email, “There is no danger of Sonoma State closing, but we must do everything we can to try to increase enrollment and meet our targets.” 

    If Sonoma State continues on this trend of declining enrollment it’s uncertain how much notice students would have in regards to changes in class availability and tuition prices. 

    “Chancellor Castro has announced there will be no tuition increase for next year,” Sakaki wrote. “Faculty and administrators are working to minimize impacts on class availability to ensure that all students can graduate in a timely fashion.”

    “Enrollment at SSU declined most among students who came from outside our region. We also continue to graduate students in larger numbers than ever before, which reduces the overall size of our student body,” wrote Sakaki. 

    In addition to this, SSU saw the largest increase of transfer students in the last 10 years this past fall, suggesting students that started college see the value in completing their degrees and Sonoma State’s ability to deliver that dream, explained Sakaki.

    Heidi Nelson, a 34-year-old communications and media studies major said, “This is the first semester I’ve had an actual on-campus class and it’s dead. I know it’s a combination of the pandemic, the economy, and people’s availability but it’s concerning to not see people on campus. I’m hoping that changes in a few weeks but if it doesn’t, how do we fill these spaces?”

    Sakaki explained what SSU is doing to fill these spaces. “The Office of Strategic Enrollment is engaging in a number of activities to increase enrollment, including recruiting across the state of California and out of state, enhancing relationships with community colleges, ending impaction in a number of majors, and offering recruitment scholarships to new students.”   

    The pandemic accelerated a decline that began back in 2016. Some people think campus related crime could be contributing to this decrease in enrollment. 

    Jill Knowlton, former alumni and parent of two current SSU students thinks campus related crime could be deterring prospective students. 

    “I think the community reputation of Sonoma State has gotten better over the years, but I don’t think it helps that they’ve found dead bodies on campus. Parents get very paranoid about crime so when they’re researching schools for their kids and they don’t know anything about Rohnert Park or Sonoma county and they see that when they Google the school, it doesn’t look good,” said Knowlton. 

    Knowlton isn’t the only one concerned about campus-related crime. 

    “I’m concerned that the level of crime on and around the SSU campus is a factor in our level of enrollment right now. It’s something I would’ve liked to know more about before I enrolled here,”  Nelson said. 

    Three bodies have been found on campus since 2016. 

    The first was that of Kirk Kimberly, an 18-year-old SSU student whose remains were found buried in a shallow grave around 200 yards west of parking lot “M” in Oct. 2016.

    The second body was discovered in the butterfly garden in Feb. 2021 and belonged to Saul Morales-Ramirez, a 23-year-old Rohnert Park resident. 

    Also, the 2018 annual campus security report shows that there was one additional case of on-campus non-negligent manslaughter taking place in the resident housing.

    Sonoma State’s incident rate in 2019 was 9.51 reports per 1000 students. This rate is comparable to other CSU schools. 

    Located just nine miles away, Santa Rosa Junior College’s incident rate is 2.2 reports per 1000 students. 

    Higher incidents of reported crime can also indicate stricter law enforcement and reporting.

    A 2019 audit of Sonoma State revealed the school failed to maintain accurate daily crime logs as required by the Clery Act. This led to the exclusion of three crimes from the 2019 annual security report, including an on-campus sexual assault. 

    “The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report campus crime data, support victims of violence, and publicly outline the policies and procedures they have put into place to improve campus safety,” read the Clery Center website. 

    SSU’s failure to accurately report crime on a campus that already has a higher incident report rate doesn’t provide the community with an accurate understanding of campus safety. 

    According to an article from the Press Democrat from Sep. 2020, in the greater Sonoma County area, crime rates fell by 22% between 2010 and 2019, however since the start of the pandemic, crime rates are rising again. 

    It’s possible SSU’s declining enrollment trend started in 2016 due to campus and community safety concerns and has been accelerated further by the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

    COURTESY// Dean Hollis Robbins

    Data showing SSU enrollment numbers from 2010 through 2022.

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