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Enrollment and Improved Credit Rating: The Struggle Facing WSU

Around Campus | Photo by Arden Reimer | The Wright State Guardian

Wright State University received a credit rating upgrade from Moody’s, an investor service issuer in New York. Despite this upgrade, concerns about enrollment still exist at the university.

What is a Moody’s Ranking?

In the words of the company’s website, Moody’s provides financial intelligence and analytical tools to help business leaders make better, faster decisions. Essentially, Moody’s operates as a credit report bureau for large businesses.

Douglas Fecher, a former chair of the board of trustees at Wright State, explained the latest report from the credit company.

“What Moody’s is saying is your reserves are now at a healthy level. The way we got here was by being very careful about how we spent money, the budget discipline that they’re talking about. That’s what caused the reserves to grow again to get up to become a more healthy level,” Fecher said.

Student enrollment

According to Moody’s rating statistics, WSU operated under a stable rating from 2003 to 2015; however, in May 2017, the ratings were negative. The greatest factor in the rating change is tied to enrollment at the university.

According to a report that Moody’s conducted in October 2015  the enrollment at the university was about 17,000 students. The latest report noted 9,531 full-time students were attending the university in the fall of 2022.

“I give a lot of credit to the entire university community, because like I said, it’s not easy to bring a budget down the way the budget has been brought down at Wright State, but it had to be brought down because of the lower number of student enrollment,” Fecher said.

Despite the recent downward trend in enrollment, Fecher is confident the university is on the upswing. 

“Wright State University has one of the lowest tuition loads in the state of Ohio for public universities,” Fecher said. “We were just packed with prospective students at that last open house. So, I think there are a lot of signs that enrollment is beginning to turn around. I hope it continues that way.”

Faculty reductions

According to Moody’s most recent report, another factor in the rating change was the implementation of material labor force reductions through a voluntary faculty separation program.

In February 2021, the Wright State Board of Trustees voted to eliminate up to 113 faculty positions at the university. Fecher addressed the issue of faculty reductions on campus.

“It was unfortunate, but it really comes down to, when you’re down seven or eight thousand in student enrollment, you need to bring all labor forces down to more commensurate with the number of students that you actually have on campus,” Fecher said.

The future

With Wright State’s upgrade from the latest Moody’s rating, Fecher sees stronger days ahead for the university.

“What it’s going to take is [continuing to pay] a lot of attention to the value of the education that we provide at Wright State University, do we have the right programs, and the right kinds of things that will attract students to the university, that’s the biggest part of it, [it] all comes back to enrollment,” Fecher said. “So, if we can do that and then maintain an appropriate level of budget discipline, the university is going to be in a really good place.”

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