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.


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