GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's a problem many university leaders are scrambling to find answers for — lower enrollment in higher education. The trend is happening across the country, and the state of Michigan is no different.
The decline in numbers started well before the pandemic. The Michigan Associate of State Universities released its Enrollment Report for Fall 2021, which tracks data all the way back to 2012.
On Page 4 of the report, MASU outlines the total headcount for all 15 universities every single year. All but three of them — University of Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Technological University — are on a downward trajectory.
Two of the universities with the biggest enrollment declines are Western Michigan and Central Michigan. WMU saw a 24% decrease over the last 10 years. CMU saw a staggering 44.5% decrease in the span, the largest in the state.
A group of CMU students co-authored a letter in the campus newspaper, saying they're worried the university won't be around in the next 10 years. CMU already had to shut down four residence halls for the next fall semester.
Jennifer DeHaemers, the school's Vice President of Student Recruitment and Retention, said CMU failed to make any changes, even after they recognized the trend:
“When enrollments reached a peak around 2010, a general sense of complacency overtook some areas of the university, creating a sense of satisfaction with outdated technology and leading to a failure to employ new and updated best practices of recruiting."
In that same statement provided to FOX 17 Wednesday, DeHaemers outlined some of the short and long term plans to reverse the narrative.
“We are making, and implementing, both short- and long-range plans to help us grow, address these challenges, and create new opportunities for CMU. Tactics we are using to help reverse the enrollment trend include training admissions staff how to approach recruiting conversations from a sales and marketing approach, implementing accountability metrics and setting specific weekly goals for the number of deposits by prospective undergraduate students, reinstating our student call center for peer-to-peer conversations with prospective undergraduate students, implementing a new peer mentoring program, and holding ‘get to know CMU’ events across the state and in strategic recruiting areas in Toledo and Chicago.”
While most universities are seeing a decline in enrollment, the opposite trend is happening at community colleges in the area.
CMU released a statement online at cmich.edu.
FOX 17 reached out to KVCC to learn more but have not heard back.
As for GRCC, officials told FOX 17 in September they credit the jump to lower tuition costs thanks to state and local programs.