CMU drop in freshman enrollment result of new recruitment goals
Interim Director of Admissions Kevin Williams said the 12.4 percent decrease in freshman enrollment at Central Michigan University was by design.
Williams said CMU implemented more stringent academic requirements for admitting students last year. He said the opening of the College of Medicine has encouraged the university to recruit students of a “higher caliber.”
“We think the actual class size this year might be a good fit for CMU,” he said.
Williams said the dip in freshman enrollment has not had an impact on the number of freshman classes offered. Class size only becomes a problem when there are too many students and not enough resources for everyone because faculty get overwhelmed, he said.
As the number of high school graduates in Michigan decreases, competition among universities to recruit students increases. Williams said CMU has to rebrand itself to receive more national recognition.
The 2011-12 ACT College Readiness Snapshot for Michigan shows that out of the 106,804 students who took the ACT, only 18,904 met or exceeded the mean score of 19.6 for all subjects. As a result, Williams said all higher education institutions in Michigan are attempting to recruit the same 17.7 percent of high school students.
CMU’s undergraduate application states the freshman class has an average high school GPA of 3.3 and an average ACT score of 22, although this data does not represent a minimum or cutoff for admission.
Williams said CMU is looking to recruit students with a high school GPA of 3.5 and an ACT score of 25 or higher.
With the pool of high school students in Michigan shrinking, Williams said, CMU has to recruit out-of-state. He said the university recently hired Amy Hauenstein, full-time admissions adviser for the state of Illinois, because CMU attracts many students from the Chicago area.
CMU’s recruiting efforts won’t be limited to the Midwest, Williams said. CMU will be reaching out to students in Florida, Texas and California. While CMU has recruited outside of Michigan in the past, Williams said this enrollment strategy is now moving “full steam ahead.”
Just because students are coming from outside Michigan doesn’t mean they will leave once they graduate, he said. Students in health programs, for instance, will have to commit to practicing within Michigan to address the state’s needs for more doctors.
New science and health programs on campus will help CMU attract higher caliber students from across the country, Williams said. By the time the incoming freshmen are seniors, he said he expects to see more students majoring in science, health professions, engineering and business.
“We’re undergoing a bit of a change in our identity as an institution,” he said.
As more students are enrolled based on stricter requirements, Williams said he hopes to see more students take value in their education at CMU.
“CMU has had a past reputation of being a party school,” he said. “We’re trying to shed that.”
Williams said he already has seen university culture begin to slowly shift toward a more reputable image. He said he expects to see an increase in student pride in CMU over the next few years.
Despite the decreasing size of the freshman class, more students are signing up for Leadership Camp and Leadership Safari at CMU, Residence Hall Assembly President Alyson Cole said.
Cole, an East Grand Rapids junior, said students who participate in Leadership Camp or Leadership Safari, are more likely to stay at CMU and benefit academically from the experience.
Students who took part in Leadership Camp in 2010 had a retention rate of 80 percent, while students who took part in Leadership Safari in the same year had a retention rate of 82 percent, she said. These students also had a higher GPA on average than those who did not participate in the programs.
The one-year retention rate at CMU in 2012 is 75.4 percent, while the two-year retention rate is 67.3 percent. Last year, the one-year retention rate was 75.8 percent, while the two-year retention rate was 69.2 percent.
Cole said Leadership Camp and Leadership Safari spark student interest in CMU and encourage prospective students to visit campus. Although Leadership Safari is for incoming freshmen, Leadership Camp is also open to high school students who are considering attending CMU. She said students who participate in these programs and make friends will want to come back to the university.
“I think it’s extremely important to make connections with people at CMU before they even start classes,” she said.
Freshmen Olivia Hunsinger and Kaylan Swiney said they both decided to attend CMU because the university offered their majors, and they both received financial aid.
Swiney, a criminal justice major from Saginaw, said she chose to come to CMU because she received a scholarship from the university. She said some of her friends in high school chose to attend different universities because CMU was not affordable for them and they were offered money to go somewhere else.
“I know price was a huge factor for other students,” she said.
Hunsinger, an apparel design and merchandising major from Clio, said despite increases in tuition at public universities across Michigan, the scholarship and grants she received from CMU made her higher education affordable.
Both freshmen agreed the welcoming campus environment attracted them to CMU.
Hunsinger said she appreciates that faculty make an effort to get to know their students because it shows they genuinely care about their education.
“People are really friendly, and faculty are helpful,” she said.
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