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U of MN struggles to attract local students. Drafted pronoun policy isn’t a good recruitment strategy.

Fall 2018 classes will begin September 4 at the University of Minnesota, but enrollment data shows the university loses more local college-bound students to neighboring states than it attracts.

The University’s Systemwide Enrollment Planning Taskforce met in June to brainstorm ways “to curb a decades-long” enrollment trend and “bolster admissions to its system campuses,” as reported by the Minnesota Daily.

Minnesota has seen more and more students leave the state for college than come into it from neighboring states since the 1980s, according to data provided by the Office of Undergraduate Education. In 2016, the state had a total deficit of 4,930 students to Wisconsin, Iowa and both Dakotas.

“We get our pockets picked every year from states and universities from across the nation,” said Bob McMaster, the vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

The U of MN plans to combat enrollment losses by “encourag[ing] students to apply to other University campuses if they are not admitted to the campus of their choice in an attempt to keep students in the University system” and “highlight[ing] and promot[ing] the specialties of each campus.”

But beyond the availability of a desired program, a student’s choice of college can also hinge on affordability, scholarships and financial aid, and academic quality.

What about school policy? Could that factor in?

As first reported by the Star Tribune, the U is “considering a new ‘gender identity’ policy that would assure transgender men and women, as well as others, the right to use whatever pronoun they wish on campus—whether it’s he, she, ‘ze’ or something else.”

Students and professors would be expected to use the names, gender identities and pronouns specified to them or risk discrimination or harassment charges and face potential punitive measures including academic expulsion or termination from employment.

The proposed pronoun mandate does not specify how many, if any, “slip-ups” are allowed before a university member is accused of harassment or discrimination. And while it is unlikely these blunders will result in immediate punishment, it could add to an already paranoid campus climate.

Not a very solid recruitment strategy.

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