Declining enrollment leads to $1M shortfall at college

It’s a tale of two seasons.

One is the short term, where a multi-year stretch of reduced enrollment at Ripon College has led to less money, and therefore, staffing cuts.

The other season is the long term, in which Ripon College is in sound financial shape — with improved facilities, scholarships and more thanks to a successful capital campaign — and a robust endowment fund that kicks out millions of dollars in interest.

That’s how college President Zach Messitte relates the overall state of the college.

Right now, however, it’s the short term, and with a million-dollar shortfall to make up, some staff are feeling the pain through layoffs. It’s about a half-dozen full-time positions.

These reductions are tied to enrollment.

The drop is not a single-year issue. It’s not just an incoming freshman class that didn’t meet the target goal.

“Over the last four years, we’ve had [freshmen] classes that have ranged from 205 to 240, and our number this year will be right inside that same range,” Ripon College President Zach Messitte said. “... It’s four years of lower enrollment than the previous four years, so cumulatively, it adds up. And that’s why we decided to make some adjustments to our operations, because a smaller student body means that you have to figure out how to make do with a smaller staff.”

Total enrollment now ranges between 825 and 850.

“The number — I guess it was five years ago or so — was slightly over 1,000, so we’re down a little bit,” Messitte said. “And, no secret, Ripon is a college that is tuition-dependent.”

Other revenue comes from alumni gifts and the existing endowment, “but the predominant amount of our revenue comes from tuition,” he said.

So, staff have been trimmed, and the college also sought “nips and tucks” and new revenue to balance the budget.

“The total amount of either cuts or new revenue that we were targeting this year was a million dollars,” Messitte said.

Recommended for you