Bucking declining enrollment trends at Central Michigan University, one academic program is seeing record-breaking enrollment numbers.
The Master of Science in Information Systems program within the College of Business Administration has hit a record-high of 152 students, a 74-percent increase from last year.
Fifty-three students, representing 44.2 percent of the incoming class, are international students from India. China, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria are also contributing sources for the increased enrollment, with international students representing 85.3 percent of the new class.
MSIS Director Emil Boasson credits a solid overall program for the growth.
“The main reason (for the high enrollment numbers) is an outstanding program at the cutting edge of technology that gives excellent opportunities for well-paid jobs after graduation, both abroad and in the U.S.,” Boasson said.
Boasson added that the program’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) designation, which it received in spring 2011, also plays a huge part in the enrollment figures.
The designation permits international students in the program to stay and work longer in the United States.
“It is important that our program is STEM designated,” Boasson said. “It allows international students to work up to 29 months rather than 12 in the U.S. after graduation.”
Another factor that attracts international students to the program is the chance to waive out-of-state tuition, instead keeping costs at the in-state rate.
“CMU grants any out-of-state student in-state tuition if they receive an assistantship from the university,” Boasson said. “The MSIS Program offered 9.25 full graduate assistantship positions this year, and each position carries in-state tuition for international students.”
Once the positions are divided up, there are 33 five-hour-per-week positions and 20 one-hour positions available, supporting 53 students.
To increase awareness, representatives from the program do some recruiting abroad.
“The College of Graduate Studies has a recruiter who goes to different countries and introduces all of the graduate programs,” Boasson said. “I occasionally travel, and many faculty in our department go abroad to make contact with universities and try to build up a relationship.”
While the number of international students in the program remains high, American students account for only 13.2 percent of the program’s overall enrollment.
“One reason is the fact that students in our own undergraduate program are getting the same placement as our graduate students,” Boasson said. “They find jobs all over the state and all over the country and would rather like to get a job and see what happens.”
With the increase in enrollment, there has been some trouble finding professors and available teaching spaces.
“This was hard work for the faculty who had prepared for classes over the summer and were moved to other classes, or who added extra sections,” Boasson said. “It all worked out fine, but there was a little delay in getting all the students in classes on time.”
However, the growth of the program is a cause for concern for others.
“At this rate of growth, we will not be able to sustain the program,” business professor Robert Miller said during a presentation to the Board of Trustees in September.
Boasson also said that changes have to be made, particularly within Grawn Hall.
“We need a new building for the College of Business Administration,” Boasson said. “Grawn is the oldest building on campus, and in 1915, computers did not exist. Now, modern day businesses are run by computers. Hopefully, we will get a new building as a 100-year anniversary present in 2015.”
University Editor Kyle Kaminski contributed to this report.