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Western Michigan University enrollment down 4.8% in fall 2019


Sept. 20, 2019

KALAMAZOO, MI -- Western Michigan University lost over 1,000 students in the last year.
The university lost 1,092 students, a 4.8% decrease in total enrollment, between fall 2018 and fall 2019, according to data released by WMU.
The university’s enrollment has seen a steady decline since the early 2000s. In the last three decades, the school’s enrollment peaked at 25,461 during the 2002-03 school year.
There are currently 21,470 students enrolled, the fall 2019 data said. In fall 2018, there were 22,562 students enrolled at the university.
WMU Provost Jennifer Bott said the decline follows a statewide trend in university enrollment, and that WMU saw “bright spots” of enrollment increases in specific student populations.
“There are many numbers to be quite proud of,” Bott said.
An overall decline in university enrollment can be seen throughout the state. In January, MLive reported enrollment at Michigan’s state universities peaked in fall 2011, at 301,919 students, and has declined in the years since, largely because of a shrinking number of college-age students in Michigan and across the country.
The demographic decline in the state is expected to continue indefinitely. The number of Michigan babies born in 2017 was 18% fewer births than in 2000, the birth year of many of last year’s college freshmen.
The collective headcount at Michigan’s 15 public institutions totaled 286,854 in fall 2018. That was down 3,884 students, or 1.4%, compared to fall 2017 enrollment.
Bott said people across the state need to work together to increase Michigan’s overall college-going rate. The decline in students “remains a challenge all of us can face together.”
Western saw a 1.9% increase in the number of international undergraduate students when comparing fall 2018 enrollment numbers to those from fall 2019. But, during the same period, the university lost 20.3% of its international graduate student population.
The number of WMU students from out of state increased 10.6% since last fall. The university took action to be more attractive to out-of-state students in 2017, cutting the non-resident tuition rate by nearly half .
“We are very proud of our out-of-state enrollment,” Bott said.
The university is “bucking the national trend” of enrolling fewer international undergraduate students, she said.
“Most of the institutions across the country can’t share that level of good news," Bott said.
Bott also said this year’s freshmen class is comprised of 11% more students who came to Western with a 3.5 GPA or higher.
Current main-campus tuition rates for most university programs range from $6,047 to $6,676 for Michigan residents taking 12-15 credit hours, and $7,558 to $8,345 for non-residents. The university has different tuition rates for students in the Haworth College of Business, the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the College of Fine Arts.
Turning around the trend of enrollment decline is part of the motivation behind campus projects including construction of new student housing and a new student center to attract more students to campus. The university also created the “Strategic Enrollment Plan 2018-2025” last year and hosted public forums to hear from the community on how to make the university better.
Arcadia Flats, is a six-story, 197-unit residential facility that will house up to 353 students. Under construction now, and scheduled to open fall 2020, the apartment-style housing will offer multiple living options for graduate and upper-level undergraduate students.
A first phase of the new student center, which will take the place of the 1957-built John T. Bernhard Center, is projected to open fall 2021. The center will be a three-story, 162,450-square-foot building featuring nine shops and restaurants, space for student organizations, gathering space as well as lounges and four hammock areas.
The Board of Education approved the 2019-20 budget, which included a 4.3% tuition increase for undergraduate students. The budget, totaling about $423 million, is less than a 1% increase from last year’s general fund budget of about $424 million.
An in-state full-time student taking undergraduate courses will pay $13,017 in tuition and fees for the 2019-20 academic year, Jan Van Der Kley, vice president of business and finance, said during the board meeting June 26. That represents a $534 increase from what that same student would have paid in the 2018-19 academic year.
Tuition and required fees make up 71% of the university’s total budgeted revenue for the general fund, budget documents show. The university is expecting $304.9 million in revenue next year from tuition and fees, according to the projected general fund budget.
The university is not laying off staff or cutting programs as a result of its smaller student population, Bott said, but will reduce costs by not automatically filling staff positions when they are vacated. The main priority is to address the budget in a way that “provides the least disruption to our students,” the provost said.
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