For months, Central Michigan University officials have pointed to a drop-off in Michigan high school graduates as the main cause of a roughly 5-percent decrease in on-campus enrollment.
But at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting, CMU officials pivoted, suggesting poor retention rates, a lack of academic counselors, an embarrassingly outdated scholarship policy and a lack of faculty outreach to students impacting enrollment more so than high school graduates.
But does that really explain much?
Sure, it would be great to have more counselors on campus, and yes, playing up our faculty to both current and prospective students could do some good. It’s also a no-brainer to update our merit-based scholarship policies, which, according to Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Steven Johnson, has not been updated in about a decade. Offering more rewards to students would no doubt give them incentive to stay at CMU in the long run.
What can be done to attract students here, though? Much of what Johnson addressed at the board meeting would do some good to push retention rates up, at least a bit. They would do little to attract new students to CMU, though.
That’s assuming Johnson’s plan goes into action soon, not in the 2014 academic year, as stated at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting.
CMU doesn’t have time to waist. If the university has a plan to attract students to Mount Pleasant, let’s stop talking about it and start doing it.
Prospective students, more than anything else, are looking for colleges that offer them a high-quality education at a (relatively speaking) low price.
The 5-percent decline in on-campus enrollment is partly due to not retaining enough students, yes, but it has more to do with a lack of freshmen choosing to come to CMU. Though we can’t know why students don’t choose to come here, a large part of that might be because they don’t see the qualities we list above, especially when it comes to receiving a high-quality education.
Over the past several years, CMU has positioned itself as a school that has a little bit of everything (the addition of the College of Medicine, for instance), but excels in next to nothing. Who wants to come to a school like that?
What prospective students want to see is a school that is excellent at what it does. CMU needs to turn its focus away from being everything to everyone, and instead focus on its best programs and beef them up. Those programs need to be promoted to prospective students both in and out-of state, and highlighted as a reason to come to CMU.
We need to market our best attributes, not our mediocre ones, so that prospective students – who are applying to CMU at record numbers – want to come here as their first choice, not as their back-up plan.