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Central Michigan University sets record online enrollment

Overall enrollment hits nearly 96 percent of previous year, despite decline in high school seniors

Contact: Heather Smith


​Central Michigan University's fall 2017 enrollment reflects record numbers in online classes and programs — 9 percent higher than a year ago.

CMU President George E. Ross said the increase is a testament to the work of faculty and staff over the past two years to expand the delivery of high-quality online programs. Central was one of the first universities to be recognized nationally for its online programs.

"CMU's Online Academic Program Committee studied, planned and ultimately fueled the expansion of our online program offerings," Ross said. "As a result, faculty have created 40 new courses and 12 new online programs. This is tremendous growth in a high-demand area, responding to both student and employer needs."

Central's overall enrollment stands at 23,335, which is nearly 96 percent of last year's total. The strategic enrollment management team and the Office of Institutional Research had projected a decline based on the number of high school seniors in Michigan and surrounding states.

Steven Johnson, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, said this follows a national trend — one that is most prevalent in the Midwest. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, Michigan experienced the second-largest enrollment decrease in the country.

NSC data shows the number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities is the lowest it has been in seven years. First-time college students, in fact, numbered more than 63,000 fewer than in the previous year.

Johnson said the university years ago predicted these declines and the resulting increase in competition among universities. Related planning efforts included identifying best possible ways to serve and thus attract students.

"CMU's emphasis on leadership programming for all students; our advancement of health care, business and STEM programs; and our intensive recruiting and marketing efforts all play a role," Johnson said.

"The recruitment, retention and graduation of students means all of us must engage in advancing academic excellence, in creating the best possible environment for students and in delivering the programs that make our students ultimately marketable when they graduate," he said.

Diving into the numbers

As expected, more than half of CMU's decrease in students comes from transfer and international enrollment.

Over the past five years, Michigan's community colleges have lost more than 37,000 students, Johnson said. Central's transfer enrollment is down 260 students this year alone.

Meanwhile, international enrollment fell to fewer than 1,000 students for the first time since 2013. These numbers mirror what's happening nationwide in the wake of policy debates in Washington, D.C.

In other areas, while the overall decline in students caused a slight dip in total multicultural enrollment, CMU's 22 percent diversity continues to outpace the average for Michigan's total population. The freshman class once again had a record high multicultural level of 22 percent.

CMU's student credit hours declined by 1.6 percent more than predicted. Barrie Wilkes, vice president for finance and administrative services, said this is a manageable rate. 


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