University should meet 2015 freshman enrollment goal
Enrollment numbers for fall 2015 have not been released, but Central Michigan University is on track for 3,600 new freshmen being enrolled for the fall semester.
"There is an official enrollment day where we go through and count,” said Director of Public Relations and Internal University Communications Steve Smith. “Whatever number we have at that point in time is what we use for measuring enrollment. We like to allow people enough time for drop and add.”
The university's goal is always between 3,500 and 3,600, said Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Steven Johnson.
If the goal of enrolling 3,600 new freshmen is achieved, it will be a decrease from last year by 173 students. Over the last five years, CMU has enrolled about 3,618 new freshmen in the fall.
“I’d say the day of record enrollments are probably gone forever, but I think that allows us to focus on some other things that are more important than the size of the university,” Smith said.
During the Board of Trustees meeting June 23, Johnson presented an enrollment plan for 2016-18. The goals of the plan are to enroll 3,500 first-time college students with an increase in diversity and out-of-state students. Johnson is also working on enrolling 1,100 new transfer students, and developing a peer mentoring program between students.
Johnson identified areas CMU could improve upon while putting in effort to reach their enrollment goals, which are to increase the quality of student experience, increase retention and graduation rates and foster more support for enrollment as an institutional responsibility. The idea is to position CMU for future growth and sustainability, Johnson said, while keeping student success in mind.
"We're approaching enrollment now not so much as ‘How many students can we get here?’ but ‘What’s the right number for the university so students have adequate housing and adequate faculty so we can control class sizes?’” Smith said.
CMU should enhance its social media presence, recruit more out-of-state and international students, use summer camps as a recruiting tool and improve transfer student services, Johnson said.
"We have conversations (at camps) expressing the importance of going to college," Johnson said. "We stress the importance of financial planning with their parents."
Long term recruitment efforts include investing in facilities and developing new programs for students. The challenge, Johnson said, is balancing the cost of CMU with places the university needs revenue from, like lower income areas. Overcoming this challenge would increase campus diversity and avoid losing students to more affordable institutions.
"We're always trying to increase the diversity of our student population. We want it mirror what we see in Michigan, because we're such a Michigan-centric university,” Smith said. “95-98 percent of our students come from Michigan, so what we would ideally like to do is match what the population is in the state.”
Johnson also identified declining high school populations as a challenge. He said in the Midwest, and Michigan specifically, the number of students is declining, which affects how many students graduate high school, and CMU's enrollment, over time. The primary source of recruitment has been Michigan community colleges.
"Certain organizations give us an estimate of persons between ages 13 and 18 that would be college ready and there was some significant loss," Johnson said. "Michigan overall is expected to see a decline in high school graduates through 2020."
According to OIR data, the Michigan high school graduation rate has been steadily declining since 2009. In 2014, almost 102,000 high school seniors graduated, with CMU's freshman enrollment at 3,773. The projected graduation rate for 2015 was slightly more than 98,000. The projected freshman enrollment for CMU in 2015 is 3,500.
Because Michigan's high school student population is declining, the university has placed staff out-of-state, in places such as Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Johnson said CMU has increased efforts of exposure in neighboring states. Last year, 47 states were represented among on-campus students.
"We've always attracted a phenomenal number of students from Illinois," Johnson said. "We've increased our presence in those areas through participation in admission events. We're doing more high school visits in those areas because we've never done that on a regular basis because all of our students have come from Michigan."
The university is working with the National Association for Admissions, particularly national college fairs.
"We started doing that two years ago to put CMU on the map as an institutional choice for out-of-state students," Johnson said.
Staff reporter Zahra Ahmad also contributed to this story.