by Geoff Larcom, Published September 18, 2012
Fall opening enrollment figures show that more and more students are choosing to attend Eastern Michigan University based on the appeal of its faculty and academic programs, campus life and reasonable price.
Eastern has the largest incoming class of new undergraduates in its 163-year history with 5,076 students. The total, which includes first-time freshmen, transfer students, students pursuing a second degree, and other types of new undergraduate students, represents an increase of 6 percent from the previous Eastern record of 4,751 in 2001.
The entering freshman class is the largest in a decade with an enrollment of 2,595, compared to 2,130 at the start of last fall, an increase of 21 percent. The large increase in freshmen occurred despite a decline in Michigan's population from 10,050,847 in 2007 to 9,876,187.
The incoming freshman class is better prepared to succeed in college and is more diverse as well. Final figures indicate that 725 freshmen had a high school GPA of 3.50 or higher, compared to 532 last fall, an increase of 36 percent. In addition, 877 freshmen earned a high school GPA of 3.0 to 3.49, compared to 663 last year, a 32 percent increase.
Minority students, defined as African American, Hispanic or Native American, total 892 in this fall's class compared to 632 last year, an increase of 24 percent. The entering class is more geographically diverse as well, with increases in students from Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Eastern's student body includes students from 81 Michigan counties, 43 states and 79 countries.
Eastern also has more students living on campus. This fall, 1,840 new students are living in EMU residence halls and apartments, a 19 percent increase from last fall's total of 1,549. Overall, 3,343 students are living in EMU housing this fall, an increase of 11 percent from last year's total of 3,013. This represents the largest number of students living on campus since fall 2006.
"Eastern is a great historic university with faculty and staff who care and are accessible to our students," said Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin. "This fall's dramatic increase in new students shows that our affordability, excellent faculty and academic programs, and joys of campus life have touched many hearts and minds. This is a time of exceptional momentum, growth and excitement on our beautiful campus, and students are coming to join us."
Roy Wilbanks, chair of the EMU Board of Regents, said, "Our significant enrollment gains and the quality of this class is a reflection of the sustained effort Eastern has put into improving its facilities, academic programs and communications efforts. Historic campus improvements such as the Science Complex, the Pray-Harrold renovations and numerous residence hall enhancements are evidence of that continued commitment."
Among key areas that have played a role in EMU's enrollment growth:
Tuition restraint: EMU has been a nationwide leader in holding down costs for students and their families. Over the past four years, Eastern's average increase of 2.86 percent in tuition and mandatory fees has been the lowest - by far - among Michigan's 15 public universities. EMU students pay only $32 more per credit hour than four years ago.
Financial aid: The University has increased its financial aid support of students by 68 percent over the last five years, from $21.4 million to $35.7 million.
Academics: Under the leadership of Provost and Vice President Kim Schatzel, who began at EMU last January, Eastern is working to serve students from admission to graduation with academic support and enhancements to the student experience.
This fall, the University welcomed 18 new faculty members to Eastern. In addition, 37 new faculty searches have been approved for professors who would begin in fall 2013.
Among EMU's the new academic offerings is the Physician Assistant Program, approved last summer by the Board of Regents and set to begin admitting students in May 2014.
In order to maximize career opportunities for its graduates, EMU has continued to increase its partnerships with community colleges. The University now has 122 articulation agreements that allow students to begin studies at a community college and then transfer considerable credits toward a bachelor's degree in a given career-focused major, such as nursing.
Facilities: Students this fall are enjoying the second phase of EMU's $90 million, self-funded Science Complex, which is the renovation of the existing classroom building. Along with the Science Complex Addition, which opened in February of 2011 and features a spherical planetarium located five stories above an atrium, the overall project is the largest in EMU's history and a crucial element in Eastern's ability to educate future scientists, researchers and teachers.
Last September Eastern reopened its largest and busiest classroom building, Pray-Harrold, after a fast-track move-out and renovation that involved a wide variety of improvements to the classroom facilities and student spaces. The project was a collaboration with the state, which supplied $31.5 million of the $42 million project cost. Both the Science Complex and Pray-Harrold feature enhanced classroom technology and equipment.
In addition, EMU has made numerous prudent and environmentally sound improvements to residence halls and to student living spaces. The latest are the renovations to Hoyt Residence Hall, which came on line this fall, completing the renovations of all three residence hall towers (Pittman and Hill are the other two).
Public Service: Eastern continues to excel in its community role and as an economic benefactor. A vivid and current example involves Eastern's oversight role in the renovation of Hamilton Crossing, where the University is helping offer life skills training to area residents with the help of a Kresge Foundation grant. The goal is to break the cycle of poverty in that neighborhood on the south side of Ypsilanti. Overall, Eastern returns $42 to the state of Michigan for each dollar invested by the state, according to a 2009 report on the Economic and Social Impact of EMU.
Campus safety and security: Most noteworthy among the many improvements in this area is the new Department of Public Safety headquarters, located at the northwest end of campus. EMU remodeled the former Hoyt Conference Center for a cost of only $3.9 million into a state-of-the-art facility. Particularly important is the dispatch facility, which monitors the extensive network of nearly 500 cameras located in the exterior and interior of academic and residence hall buildings around campus.
EMU also created a Crime Response Unit dedicated to working on crimes on and around the campus area. A top priority has been to decrease burglaries, which have dropped dramatically at EMU. Campus burglaries decreased 31 percent from 2009 to 2011, falling from 42 to13. Burglaries in Eastern's residence halls and student apartments dropped even more, falling 59 percent, from 31 in 2009 to just 9 in 2011.
Other safety-related improvements include hiring new dispatchers and patrol officers and numerous safety measures, including residence hall swipe cards at entrances and the creation of an emergency alert text and email system and an outdoor and indoor array speaker system for use during campus emergencies.
Fundraising: EMU's Invest. Inspire. campaign raised more than $56 million, surpassing the goal of $50 million. The campaign featured the largest gift in the University's history, as William (Bill) and Delores (Dee) Brehm donated $3.2 million to the College of Education to establish the Delores Soderquist Brehm Center for Special Education Scholarship and Research, along with fully endowing several other programs.
President Martin said, "The efforts of our faculty, staff, alumni and students have created a vibrant culture in which to live and learn. It's a terrific time to be at Eastern. Come join us!"