The faces of Central Michigan University's incoming freshman class look much different than they did 10 years ago. That's because 22 percent of new CMU freshmen are minority students.
This increase of nearly 15 percent in the past decade didn't happen by chance.
Several years ago, President George E. Ross and other key university leaders decided something needed to be done to increase diversity within the student body. They set a goal: CMU's freshman class would be 20 percent multicultural by the year 2020, mirroring the state's population.
"Surpassing this goal — four years ahead of schedule — is a testament to the involvement and perseverance of our faculty and staff. It also says much about our nurturing, student-focused culture," Ross said. "This proves how powerful the CMU community is when we come together to make something happen."
Steven Johnson, vice president for enrollment and student services, said expanded strategic efforts have helped diversify the student body.
"As a major, national university, we wanted our student body to better reflect the population of our state," Johnson said. "An enhanced focus on recruitment and increased outreach to high schools and urban communities with large numbers of historically underrepresented students have made a significant impact," Johnson said.
Johnson adds that in collaboration with CMU's Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, his team also has provided more opportunities for prospective minority students to visit campus and doubled the number of Multicultural Advancement Scholarships.
Part of this year's increase comes in students from the Chicago area, where CMU has added recruitment staff. The university has 136 new students from the city and surrounding counties in Illinois and Indiana — up from 104 last year.
Raising the bar academically
Diversity was not the only record set by this year's freshman class. These new Chippewas also have an average ACT score of 23 – the highest in CMU's history. In comparison, the average composite ACT score in Michigan was 20.1, and the national average composite score was 21.
"We're not only diversifying our student body, we're also raising our academic profile," Johnson said. "Competition among higher education institutions is intense, and more high-achieving high school students are identifying CMU and its academic programs as their top choice."
The number of incoming freshmen increased slightly this year — to 3,519 from 3,486 last year. The increase comes despite a continuing decline in students graduating from Michigan high schools. This number peaked at more than 123,500 in the spring of 2008, but this past May, only 106,000 graduated. Projected numbers show only about 97,000 Michigan graduating seniors five years from now.
CMU's total 2016-17 enrollment — at more than 26,000 total students — is 97 percent of last year's total. Additional highlights include:
- CMU's 22 residence halls are once again at capacity with 6,137 students; and
- The nearly 30,000 on-campus graduate student credit hours are a 108 percent increase from 10 years ago.