Michigan high school graduates, who account for 95 percent of new enrollment at Central Michigan University, continued to decrease in number this year.
After projections derived from a study by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education estimated 113,887 high school graduates from both public and private schools in 2012-13, it is projected that only 106,537 Michigan students received their diplomas.
The decline marks a 6.4-percent drop from last year, and a 13.4-percent decline from 2009-10, which saw 123,089 students complete their high school education.
Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Steven Johnson said Michigan’s struggling economy, especially in urban areas, is responsible for the projected decline.
“We have seen a number of major changes in the auto industry that have diminished the number of jobs,” he said. “People are leaving Michigan with their families. Many didn’t have a reason to stay where they grew up.”
Johnson said CMU has enrolled 2,963 new freshmen from high school this year, down 382 from last year’s total of 3,345. The 11.4 percent decline, he said, will be addressed through stronger recruitment efforts in Michigan and other states that have seen growth.
“We have not drawn as many (students) as we can,” Johnson said. “We can make more than one or two visits per year (to high schools) and create greater access for parents. We have to do the same thing out-of-state if we want to maintain our presence.”
Explaining how CMU is looking to recruit from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and even Texas, Johnson said he intends to focus on areas in southeast Michigan and downriver communities.
“Anywhere you can be where parents can see you is critical,” he said. “They’re still paying the bill. We have to be visible on a national platform. We need to be there; we need to be known.”
The decline was expected, Johnson said, for the past five to six years.
“It’s been anticipated, but people didn’t expect it to have such a dramatic effect,” Johnson said. “With our Global Campus, we’re now serving a broader constituency of students. It’s how you connect with these people. You don’t build a presence overnight.”
CMU is looking into building relationships with students in lower grades more now than ever before, Johnson said.
Beginning the recruitment process in ninth and 10th grades, CMU has been offering prospective students access to college-level coursework to create university awareness and drive up enrollment.
“Now they have familiarity and will have college credit under their belt,” he said of the 50 students Johnson estimated were enrolled in the programs.
Referring to four high schools closed in Detroit over the past decade, Johnson is certain that Michigan must now find a new industry to attract an influx of residents who will enroll their children in Michigan schools.
“The economy is turning around,” he said. “Michigan has to find another profession to draw people back to the state. We’ll have to find other economic drivers for people to work with.”
Superintendent of Mount Pleasant Public Schools Michael Pung said though the school district nearest to CMU has actually increased its graduate numbers by about 20 students, urban school districts have suffered.
“Here in our community we’re running pretty even,” he said. “We haven’t had a mass exodus, but some of the urban areas have been beaten up pretty badly.”
Pung said juniors and seniors at Mount Pleasant High School often take college classes at CMU, and that the university has a good presence at the school.
“Quite a good percentage of them stay right here in town for college,” he said. “If you just go over to Detroit, it’s a ghost town, but we’ve held our own.”