Michigan universities are experiencing declining enrollment; numbers are rising at community colleges


It’s a problem that many university leaders are struggling to find answers to – declining enrollment in higher education. The trend is happening nationwide, and the state of Michigan is no different.

The decline in membership began long before the pandemic. The Michigan Associate of State Universities has released its Fall 2021 enrollment report, which tracks data through 2012.

On page 4 of the report, MASU describes the total enrollment of the 15 universities each year. All but three — the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Michigan Technological University — are on a downward trajectory.

Two of the universities with the biggest declines in enrollment are Western Michigan and Central Michigan. WMU has seen a 24% decline over the past 10 years. CMU saw a staggering 44.5% decrease in duration, the largest in the state.

A group of CMU students co-wrote a letter in the campus newspaper, saying they feared the university wouldn’t be there in the next 10 years. The CMU has already had to close four residences for the next fall semester.

Jennifer DeHaemers, the school’s vice president of student recruitment and retention, said CMU hasn’t made any changes, even after acknowledging the trend:

“When enrollment peaked around 2010, a general sense of complacency pervaded certain areas of the university, creating a sense of satisfaction with outdated technology and leading to an inability to employ the best new and updated recruiting practices.”

In that same statement provided to FOX 17 on Wednesday, DeHaemers outlined some of the short-term and long-term plans to turn the tide.

“We are developing and implementing short and long-term plans to help us grow, meet these challenges and create new opportunities for CMU. Tactics we are using to help buck the enrollment trend include training admissions staff on how to approach recruiting conversations from a sales and marketing approach, implementing accountability measures and setting specific weekly goals for the number of deposits by prospective undergraduates, re-establishing our student call center for peer-to-peer conversations with prospective undergraduates, implementing a new peer-to-peer mentorship program; and holding “get to know CMU” events statewide and in strategic recruiting areas of Toledo and Chicago.

While most universities are seeing declining enrollment, the opposite trend is occurring at community colleges across the region.

CMU released a statement online at cmich.edu.

READ MORE: GRCC officials say state programs have helped enrollment rise 4.4%

Grand Rapids Community College saw a 4.4% increase from fall 2020 to fall 2021. Kalamazoo Valley Community College saw a massive 49.6% increase in enrollment from 2020 to 2021.

FOX 17 contacted KVCC to find out more but did not hear back.

As for the GRCC, officials told FOX 17 in September they attributed the jump to lower tuition fees thanks to state and local programs.

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