DLSU, along with other universities and colleges all over the country, is going through a transitional period known as the “lean years” due to the K-12 program. The lean years are expected to last from the current academic year (AY) to AY 2021-2022.
Many senior high school (SHS) students who were slated to graduate this year had to extend, as two year levels were added to their stay in compliance with the program. As a result, DLSU freshman enrollment dropped significantly for this AY and is expected to drop again next AY, raising financial, academic, and operational concerns.
Lower enrollment, budget concerns
DLSU President Br. Raymundo Suplido FSC expects that enrollment will be low in the next two years since many SHS students will not be graduating as they continue their senior high years in Grades 11 and 12.
Freshmen enrolling during the lean years will mainly come from schools that are already K-12 compliant. Br. Suplido discloses that while DLSU normally takes in 3,500 to 4,000 freshmen every year, only about 1,300 enrolled this AY.
The additional two years in the K-12 program has had a notable impact on other universities and colleges as well. Br. Suplido comments that DLSU is fortunate enough to maintain about one-fourth of its normal freshman population, as some schools expect almost zero enrollment during the lean years.
He posits that, by AY 2018-2019, freshman enrollment will return to normal as SHS seniors start to graduate. Nonetheless, Br. Suplido predicts that the effects of the drop in freshmen for the next two years will last until AY 2021-2022, since the small number of freshman enrollees from SHS will be carried over until before they graduate college.
The drop in freshman enrollees is also expected to affect the budget plans of the University as income declines. Br. Suplido asserts that the losses will be large, considering that, relative to the usual number, fewer freshmen are expected to enroll for each of the lean years.
“We’re preparing the budget now for next year,” Br. Suplido reveals. “We’re asking each department, more or less from the budget last year, to trim [their budget] down by about 17 to 19 percent, because of the drop in enrollment. So, in that way, if everybody cuts their budget, then we trim down our budget to try [to] fit [it] into the amount of money that we are trying to expect for next year.”
This year, a 4.8 percent tuition fee increase (TFI) was also implemented, and the TFI for next AY is currently undergoing evaluation by the Multi-Sectoral Committee on Student Fees (MSCSF). In a series of meetings held last AY by the MSCSF, several reasons were cited for the increase such as inflation, impacts of the K-12 program, ASEAN integration, and retaining and acquiring new professors.
“We’re still giving part of the additional income from the tuition increase to our faculty and staff. Now, in some schools, they do not, because the actual income they got from the increase in tuition does not even cover the drop in income because of the drop of enrollment,” Br. Suplido elaborates.
Impact on faculty members
Given the low freshman turnout for the lean years, which resulted to lower income and smaller college batches, the academic workload of professors is also expected to decrease. Br. Suplido emphasizes that priority will be given to the tenured professors and that they will not be laid-off. A number of part-time faculty, however, would have to be laid-off.
“Our objective is not to lose any of our full-time faculty, because in the long run we will also need them when we come back to full enrollment. If we let go of them, they go to another school. It’s hard to get good faculty members. So as much as possible we want to hold on to our full-time faculty,” he claims.
He states that, to compensate for the decreasing load and to retain the full-time faculty members, they will be given assignments, which may include teaching subjects in DLSU SHS classes. These subjects are equivalent to freshman General Education (GE) courses. As a result, their academic workload and salary levels are maintained.
In terms of partnering with other SHS through DLSU’s Connect ED Program, Br. Suplido explains that these schools are “connected” course-wise. Some of these partner schools include La Salle Green Hills, De La Salle Santiago Zobel, Colegio San Agustin Makati, and Don Bosco Makati, among others.
If a student performs well in certain GE courses in their SHS, they will no longer have to retake these and may go straight to the specialized subjects of a related course as soon as they enter DLSU. Otherwise, they would have to take a “bridging course” first before qualifying for the specialized subjects.
Br. Suplido also mentions that the University will be helping these partner schools align their respective curricula to that of DLSU. Professors in DLSU can be assigned to mentor faculty members from these schools for the integration of curricula.
Furthermore, he suggests that faculty members may be given additional research workload in place of teaching units, thus increasing the funding of research in some departments. Another option for faculty would be to apply for sabbaticals to prepare academic papers or pursue further studies.
Operations and infrastructure expenses
In terms of operational concerns, the University is looking into downsizing non-teaching personnel as a response to the drop in freshmen enrollment. Br. Suplido projects that the University’s total population of 19,000 undergraduate and graduate students will have a significant drop of at least 3,000 to 6,000 students.
Furthermore, he states that the University has leeway in stabilizing the number of personnel, since DLSU outsources majority of them. The number of security and maintenance personnel will depend on special circumstances such as campus-wide events or
when enrollment increases.
Among other operational expenses, Br. Suplido adds that the University needs to trim down on meeting expenses, as well as on air conditioners, which compose the highest electricity expenses of DLSU.
On infrastructure expenses, a number of projects such as the current renovations in the Br. Connon Hall and Enrique M. Razon Sports Center are expected to be finished this AY. In the succeeding years, Br. Suplido hopes to cut down on big projects. However, he clarifies that a separate budget coming from the previous years was set aside for special projects that will be pursued in the coming years.
The administration is also looking into the conversion of the DLSU Retreat House into a dormitory, which will house about 200 to 300 female athletes. Recollections will soon then be redirected to the former floor of the College of Law at the Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall.
Meanwhile, in the Science and Technology Complex, the construction of a new building for classrooms is also being projected for next year. This project will cater to the rising number of freshman enrollees in 2018.
For the next five years, the University will be experiencing a multitude of financial, academic, operational, and infrastructure renovation challenges in line with the impact of the K-12 program. When viewed on a national level, however, DLSU is managing fairly well compared to other universities or colleges that are bound to experience very low freshman enrollment.