Questions have arisen about the release of enrollment data prior to its established census date. The following paragraphs are intended to clarify the policies under which we are currently operating. These policies are not only consistent with established practice in the higher education community and among our elite peers but are in the best interests of the college.
On October 15 of each year data in the enrollment database of the registrar's office is "frozen." The use of a specific census date for finalizing enrollment counts is standard practice at colleges and universities, enabling us to compare - "apples to apples" - over time and across institutions.
The practice also assures that there are not multiple versions of our enrollment counts and breakdowns out in the public. Not only does that lead to questions about the accuracy of our reporting, there are a number of publications - the US News annual ranking of colleges the most visible among them - that take pains to verify the accuracy and consistency of the data we report and insist on a reconciliation of contradictory reports as a condition of inclusion.
In addition to the goal of consistent and comparable reporting of data, there are a number of practical reasons for using the October 15 census date. Federal and state agencies to whom we are required to report data, consortia with whom we share data, and publications that make our data available to prospective students all recognize that there is a certain amount of "settling down" that takes place in the first weeks of a semester and do not ask institutions to report enrollment until it is reasonable to assume the final class(es) are present. This benefits the institutions primarily in two ways:
The cohort on which to base retention rates and graduation rates is smaller. Particularly when smaller sub-groups of the student population are analyzed one or two students counted who did not need to be included in that cohort can translate into significant percentages. (For example, when we report graduation rates of athletes, and especially minority athletes, to the NCAA we are sometimes dealing with fewer than ten students. If three students left prior to the census date they are not officially part of the cohort. Had we counted them it could be the difference between reporting a 100% graduation rate and a 70% graduation rate.)
Calculation of virtually all ratios benefit from smaller cohorts: The most commonly reported include student/faculty ratios, student affairs staff per student, instructional expenditures per student, and endowment per student.
Finally, the October 15 census date was determined by the enrollment management committee. As such, it represents the collective judgment of individuals responsible for generating and reporting enrollment data.
Any questions about these policies should be directed to either Linda LeFauve or George Campbell in the Office of Planning and Institutional Research.
Office of Planning and Institutional Research