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On-campus undergraduate enrollment expected to drop 5-7 percent in fall, causing $18 million in deficits

Central Michigan University expects its fall 2013 on-campus undergraduate enrollment numbers to be down 5-7 percent from fall 2012, and as a result, the university will see a $12 million general fund deficit and a $6 million auxiliary fund deficit next year.

The university revealed the numbers, which are estimates and not final figures, in an email sent out today to faculty and staff.

If the university’s estimates turn out to be true, on-campus undergraduate enrollment at CMU in the fall semester will fall somewhere roughly in between 17,300 and 17,800, down significantly from fall 2012′s 18,686 and fall 2010′s all-time high of 19,368. It would also mean CMU’s on-campus enrollment numbers will fall to their lowest levels since at least 2003.

CMU also expects total undergraduate enrollment to drop below 21,000 for the first time since 2009. Total undergraduate enrollment sat at 21,332 in fall 2012.

Meanwhile, the deficits, caused largely by the steep drop in enrollment numbers, represent about 4 percent of CMU’s $440 million budget.

“Those numbers are significant,” the email reads. “All of us — in every college and service unit on campus — will need to be fiscally conservative. At the same time, we will ensure CMU’s viability in a competitive marketplace by continuing to invest in short- and long-term initiatives that advance academic excellence and student service.”

CMU largely pegs the decline in enrollment on the shrinking number of Michigan high school graduates. About 105,000 students graduated from Michigan high schools last year, down from a high in 2008 of roughly 118,000.

However, the university acknowledged that its problems seem to be worse than other universities’, especially those located in urban areas, who “appear to be faring better.”

According to the email, CMU will look to address the budget shortfall by re-evaluating the need for certain fixed-term faculty positions and by leaving some vacant staff and faculty-track positions empty. Colleges and departments will also use “carry-over funds” from prior years to help offset the losses.

The university denied rumors that it has instituted a hiring freeze.

“In reality, CMU has hired 79 faculty members across all colleges for the coming academic year,” the email reads. “Eleven other searches are pending/active.”

CMU is currently “evaluating what the ‘right’ number of students is for CMU,” according to the email.

“Back in the 1980s, 16,000 was a perfect fit,” the email reads. “In 2010 and 2011, CMU had record high enrollment. We are discussing what number is best for the university, based on academic excellence and the needs of students and the state.”

The email also mentioned plans to continue “accelerated marketing efforts,” although it lacked specifics.

Enrollment has been on the decline at CMU for the past several years. Total enrollment has dropped roughly 2.5 percent since 2010.

Plans to reverse that trend and more information about CMU’s budget and enrollment figures will be discussed at July 11′s Board of Trustees meeting at the Bovee University Center.

Check back with cm-life.com for more as this story develops.


  1. CMU’s enrollment decline is a disgrace. Its leadership, athletic decline, and almost non-existent marketing skill mean one thing: it has fallen precipitously in “top-of-mind” awareness around the state and among student prospects.

    Like WMU and EMU, CMU is becoming just another “directional university” with a weak brand footprint.

    The board and the President appear to have absolutely no clue, so laying it off on declining high school enrollments. adding that “16,000 was ideal” is a classic smoke screen.

    So we ask of this leadership team, “Is anything all right?”

    Perhaps some high profile alumni can weigh in. The enrollment decline is easily traced to leadership, infighting, and absence of avidity.

  2. michmediaperson says:

    I told you so. I’ve been saying since 2008 that this day was coming. CMU does NOT have the financial cost structure to be a big-time research university like the University of Michigan or MSU. That’s why tuition has skyrocketed since the former CMU president who is now at VCU, arrived around 2000.

    Admiral, you are right. It’s a disgrace. It started with the previous president and Board and Provost and it’s getting worse.

    Admiral, you’re right. There is no brand footprint. It’s not on declining high school enrollments.

    They don’t want the help of alumni in the private sector.

    Ross hired a $200,000 enrollment guy and a $140,000 PR lady who are getting us Dan Enos-type results.

    It will get worse before it gets better. CMU’s medical school is eating up funds. A poor home football schedule and a Dan Enos team that is going nowhere will kill ticket sales and put the athletic department further into debt.

    Ross needs to do the following:
    1. Get out of the Medical School business.
    2. Get out of the research business and get CMU’s academics back to the 60′s, 70′sf,80′s, 90′s when we were one of the best undergraduate universities and low tuition costs in the United States. You could get an undergraduate education from a professional professor that was better than all the Graduate Assistants down at the U-M and MSU.
    George needs to get out of the research business, lay off half the faculty and have the remaining faculty double the classroom time. Tuition rates would fall dramatically and we will have a lineup of applicants, the best and the brightest from WMU, EMU, MSU, UM, Ferris, GVSU, Oakland, standing outside of Warriner Hall. For the dollar, CMU is no longer a great value like it was from the 1960′s through the 1990′s.

    I might add that CMU is no longer flexible on degree programs like it was 30-40 years ago. The unionized faculty has killed that with the worthless General Education.

    Plus, we need to cut staff. Get rid of the Political Correctness departments such as diversity, multicultural and all that PC nonsense. Years ago, trained professional counselors were available. Look at how much staff we now have in each academic department and how the athletic department has ballooned.

    Look at how much money CMU spends to bring liberal speakers to campus to brainwash the students.
    Now, we’re short money. Guess, who will pay for this? Yep, students will with higher tuition bills. You students are suckers!

    CMU should get back to the old days when we had professional professors in the classroom teaching, not off in la-la-land doing worthless research. Trim the faculty and staffs campuswide by 50 percent. Keep the best 300 professors. Trim tuition and the best and brightest students in Michigan will be flocking here.

    I’ve been right the past five years. I hate to say it but it will get worse before it gets better. Especially, if we go into another recession.

    By the way, Admiral, I’m not sure marketing and branding differently can solve CMU’s problems. Right now, we are an overpriced product. It makes it tough for the enrollment people. Plus, the faculty’s conduct less than 2 years ago with threats of striking has not helped the situation. It turns off potential students.

    Only Ross, the Board and the new Provost can fix the product. It’s hard to market and brand a bad product that’s overpriced!

  3. Too busy trying to bust the unions to do anything to keep students.

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