An Important Shift In Our Community

In 1992, Chatham College consisted primarily of what is today Chatham College for Women. Fast forward to the fall of 2013, and the university now provides a broad range of degree and non-degree seeking programs to both men and women culminating in a total headcount enrollment of 2,170 or 1,715 in FTE (full-time equivalent)* students.

One of the largest issues facing the university’s future and very important to the ongoing discussion is how to address this reality:

As of Fall 2013, degree-seeking enrollment in Chatham College Women only represents 30% (541 students) of the university’s total headcount enrollment and 34% (522 students) of FTE enrollment**. This means that graduate and online programs—and quite critically to this discussion, their students—represent 70% of our current student body.

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At the same time, given the enrollment numbers of CCW and the growth in our graduate and online programs over the past twenty years, the make-up of our alumni community has also changed significantly. Today, CCW alumnae make up 60% (6,086) of our active alumni community with graduate and online alumni currently at 40% (4,173). Based on enrollment projections, graduation patterns and other considerations, the number of graduate and online alumni will surpass the total number of CCW alumnae within 3 to 5 years.

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This shift in the makeup of Chatham’s student and alumni populations poses serious questions to the future of the university concerning resources, strategic priorities, our alumni community and the overall student experience on campus. It is also one of the primary reasons why we have launched this initiative, and must pursue increasing critical mass in undergraduate education (to the 800 to 1,000 enrollment level) in order to bring it more in-line with our graduate programs enrollment.

At the same time, it reinforces other announced proposals to reorganize the university into more traditional schools, organizing around academic disciplines rather than types of students. This will help us better leverage, align and share resources across graduate and undergraduate academic programs.

*Full-Time Equivalent is a measurement of enrollment that helps factor in all part-time and full-time students. The full-time equivalent (headcount) of the institution’s part-time enrollment is calculated then added to the full-time enrollment headcounts to obtain an FTE for all students enrolled in the fall.

**These numbers may be slightly different than previously reported numbers in the media as they remove any non-degree seeking students and contract nurses taking classes in CCW. 

  1. Kelly McKown says:

    Again the questions persist.

    HOW has Chatham effectively marketed the undergrate college? What was spent on that particular marketing? How was a coherent stratgey put in place when there were very long gaps in the Dean of Enrollment position being filled?

    How were alumnae engaged in recruitment efforts?

    If the decision is a a product of low enrollment dollars, then why does the focus seem to come back to money every time?

    Is the undergraduate college being turned co-ed because there will be more alumni connected to the grad school and online courses now? Do you really want to throw away a 145-year tradition because the current trend, based on past actions and INaction, has produced this result? Do the women’s college alumnae mean anything? Do you anticipate with this shift in paradigm for women’s college alumnae to continue to give as they have given before?

    Continuing questions, still very few answers.

  2. Amy says:

    It is my understanding that in academia graduate alumni rarely donate to their graduate school with the exception of the Ivy League, law school, and med school (and I would imagine that the percentages for continuing education alums barely registers statistically). Undergraduate alumni, however, tend to be strongly affiliated to their college and spend their donations there. It will take several years (possibly decades) for a co-ed Chatham to have enough co-ed alums to surpass the current women’s college donors- and in this economy, even longer for them to be established in their careers long enough to donate in significant amounts. On the other hand, there will likely be a significant loss in donations from women’s college alumnae who no longer feel strong affinity for a school which has radically eliminated single-sex education, cut the tutorial, and focused its efforts and fundraising on a new campus most have never seen.

    Do the projections show that the University will succeed financially with no long-term donor profile?

  3. Kate Buffum Newmark says:

    When I attended Chatham as an undergraduate student, I was one of the few out-of-state students that I knew of. I haven’t seen any sort of push to expand the student body by recruiting in major metropolitan areas outside of Pittsburgh. In fact, it seems that there has been more of a focus on remaining “local” and going co-ed than on actually stepping up Chatham’s presence elsewhere.

  4. Sarah says:

    Why is every single post about the graduate schools? This whole debate is not about them. I get that you all love the graduate schools and want to keep them around since they are little moneymakers but this isn’t really about them. This is about productive ideas to support CCW. It is infuriating that every time this blog posts something it’s all about the graduate students. Maybe if Chatham had spent a fraction of this energy on brainstorming for CCW we wouldn’t be here fighting for CCW’s life. I understand the graduate schools are part of the university so they must be considered but I don’t need you to tell me they outnumber us. I get it. I lived it when graduate students were everywhere before Chatham bought Eastside. I would appreciate if this administration would at least pretend that they care about saving the women’s college. Maybe I’m just letting my frustrations get the better of me but honestly, it is clear the agenda of this administration is to write the women’s college off all together but you could at least have the decency to act like you feel bad about it. We ask for information and all you give us is information about the grad schools and how the grad students outnumber the women’s college. We get that, give us something we can actually take and work with. The lack of transparency in this process is infuriating. Instead of working with us, you are releasing little bits of practically irrelevant information one day at a time. Work with us but you have to let us know what hasn’t worked in the past. We can’t come up with new ideas if we don’t know what the old ideas were. Please, don’t shut us out. We want to work with you. We can’t do that if you won’t let us know what you’ve already tried. We don’t need every single detail but it would be nice to have a general idea of what recruiting strategies were tried and failed.

  5. Sarah says:

    That is a very good point Amy. I would like to know how many graduate alumni are actually faithful donors.

  6. Edwinna Confer says:

    As with any organization growth occurs where time and resources are focused. For Chatham that has been the graduate and online programs. This to the detriment of CCW.

  7. Honore Ervin says:

    Yes, the same is true of me, and I can literally count the number of students I know who were not from Western PA/West Virginia/Ohio on one hand. I think Kate’s idea of a big push to get Chatham’s name out there nationally is a good one. How to do that? I’m not sure. Is our listing in Peterson’s up-to-date, so we turn up easily in their online search? What about sending information out to high school college councilors? (I’m thinking of girls’ schools in particular, as students are already aware of the benefits of single-sex education.) I attended the all-girls’ Westover in CT (’93), and we were encouraged to apply to women’s colleges, both large and small — from Wellesley to Sweet Briar, and many girls did. Making sure schools like Westover are aware of Chatham’s existence could be a good and profitable move.

  8. Deborah Morrison says:

    For years, we’ve been told that the graduate programs, on-line programs, and other changes were intended to support Chatham College for Women, which remained an important part of Chatham University. Now we are being told that because these newer programs have been successful in growing and strengthening Chatham, the College for Women no longer matters, single-sex education for women no longer has value, and the undergraduate program must get “in line” with the graduate and other programs. How sad. But if that is the attitude of the current Chatham administration, it is easy to understand why undergraduate enrollment numbers are decreasing.

  9. Elliott says:

    You could not be more right. They have allowed many of the undergraduate programs to die and wither away without funding. It began in my opinion when tenure was done away with and adjuncts began overpopulating underdeveloped disciplines. The teaching staff as well as the programs they represent deserve much more.

  10. Tricia Chicka says:

    Nicely said Deborah!

    We did get one important piece of information: how many they feel we must attract to have a sustainable undergraduate enrollment number. 800-1,000.

    However, I would ask, how did we come to that number? Does it matter if they are evenly split amongst the colleges? What is “good” for the undergraduate college? It seems with the recession and previous numbers over time, it’s not that bad of a number anyway?

    And yes, if you don’t water the plant, it won’t grow. I would love to see numbers on the investment into the undergraduate college in all areas, because the maintenance of CCW is just as important to the enrollment numbers as to the direct funding spent on admissions.

  11. Kathleen A Ferraro says:

    Of what relevance are the percentages of grad and CCW students to discussions of the future of C W? Is it just some desireable anstract ratio? Or is the concern is with alumnae/i giving? If so, a quick look at Amnual Fund 101 will confirm what several others have already noted: people do NOT give to their graduate institutions. You could have an alumnae/i association of 90% grads and 10% undergrads and have 90% giving coming fr undergrads, I don’t have actual data but it’s easy to get.

  12. Kelly McKown says:

    Here, here!

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