Low enrollment numbers a trend among MAC schools

Low enrollment trends aren't unique to Central Michigan University.

Latest reports show concerning trends in enrollment are not limited to community colleges, but to nearly every university in the Mid-American Conference. The MAC is a Division I NCAA conference consisting of 12 schools stretching across six states.

Of the seven schools in the conference with fall 2012 enrollment data available online, six of them, including CMU, show a trend of declining enrollment over the past three years.

CMU had a total enrollment of 28,389 in 2010, 28,311 in 2011 and dipped to 27,693 this year, which translates to a 2.2 percent decrease from 2011 and a 2.5 percent decrease from 2010.

In comparison, Western Michigan University had a total enrollment of 25,045 in 2010, 25,086 in 2011 and 24,598 in 2012, a 1.7 percent two-year decline; Bowling Green State University's enrollment fell from 20,222 in 2010 to 19,697 in 2012, a 2.6 percent two-year decline, and Akron's enrollment dropped from 27,551 in 2011 to 26,666 in 2012, a 3.2 percent one-year decline.

Kent State University is the only school in the MAC to report a rise in enrollment statistics, with 2.74 percent increase from 2010.

Reasons for the overall trend of declining student enrollment range from changes in state population figures to an unusually small amount of high school graduates in Michigan.

As reported by Central Michigan Life last month, University President George Ross blames the decrease in enrollment on the mirroring trend of decreased high school enrollment.

“What’s happening in Michigan is what economists have been predicting for years: less high school students,” Ross said following a Sept. 20 Board of Trustees meeting. “We anticipated it, and we planned for it.”

According to the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information, the high school graduation rate dropped from 79.2 percent in 2010 to 74.3 percent in 2011. Also, the number of incoming freshman students between the two years saw a decrease of more than 3,000 students.

“You can attribute some of that (enrollment decrease) to a declining market,” Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Steven Johnson said during an interview with CM Life in June. “There are fewer students in the state of Michigan and the number of institutions stayed the same, so you could say we are ‘fighting’ for a fewer number of students.”

Johnson is at the forefront of a new tactical and aggressive enrollment plan to attract more students to CMU, particularly students from out of state.

"Most of our students are from Michigan, and we need to look at opportunities to broaden that,” Johnson said in June. “We already have some exposure in Illinois, particularly the Chicago area, but we need to be looking at other areas including Texas and Georgia to see if there are students who fit the identity and brand of CMU.”

In a June statement from Johnson, he said CMU would also be investing more in science and technology – programs considered high-priority.

Freshman student Morgan Toombs doesn’t believe the problem is with recruitment efforts, however.

“I’ve had at least two-dozen letters, brochures and pamphlets from Central Michigan before I enrolled,” Toombs said. “It’s almost too aggressive as it is. I can’t see how sending more would help. These improvements to academic programs are what really matter.”


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