by Geoff Larcom, Published August 29, 2014
YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University will enroll its third largest entering freshman class over the last decade when classes begin Wednesday, September 3. While final enrollment figures will not be reported until mid-September and additional new students continue to register, the University expects to enroll about 2,600 freshmen, an increase of about 25 percent from four years ago.
The entering class is also the best prepared academically in recent Eastern Michigan history, with an ACT composite score of 22.25 and average high school GPA of 3.27. The class also includes a record number of freshmen enrolling in the EMU Honors College, with a final first-year contingent expected to number about 500 students.
With the entering class, Eastern continues to remain one of the leaders among Michigan public universities in terms of entering freshman. This comes amid the trend of declining numbers of high school graduates in Michigan and Ohio.
"Eastern welcomes our new and returning students to our beautiful, historic and engaging campus," said Eastern President Susan Martin. "Our recent investment in key academic and student facilities, excellent faculty, the ability of our graduates to find good jobs in their field of study, and increased financial aid while setting the pace for tuition restraint in Michigan is being recognized by more students and their families. Students at Eastern appreciate the exceptional access to faculty, our small classes, and the many opportunities for research and community engagement. Come join us!"
Higher ACT scores and grades
In addition to the greater numbers of students attending Eastern Michigan over the last three years, this year's incoming freshman class is better prepared academically. The Average ACT score of 22.25 continues a trend of increases totaling more than a point from 2011, when the entering class averaged 21.1 on the test.
The average high school GPA of entering freshman has also risen over the last five years, increasing from 3.05 in the fall of 2010 to 3.27 for this incoming class. Eastern is also enrolling a higher percentage of students with a GPA between 3.5 and 4.0.
Honors College growth
The University's Honors College program, which accepts students entering with at least a 25 ACT score and 3.5 high school GPA while considering other factors such as background, student essays and life experience, has nearly doubled in enrollment since 2011.
This year, the University expects to admit its largest honors freshman class ever, at about 500 students, an increase of 17 percent from the previous year’s record total, and anticipates a total of about 1,400 students in the overall honors program.
Rebecca Sipe, director of the EMU Honors College, said that serving academically high achieving students has significant positive ripple effects throughout the University.
“These are students who give back to the University in so many ways,” Sipe said. “Many find their way into leadership positions, in student government or as residential advisors. They are really excited about leadership and cultural opportunities. This makes the Honors College a real service to the University.”
In addition, Sipe notes, bringing in a greater proportion of students who are highly proficient academically helps free up resources for other students who might benefit from further academic guidance.
The Honors College, which was founded in 1984, is housed in Starkweather Hall. The college features rigorous curriculum, classes taught by professors and capped at 20 students, and numerous research opportunities with faculty.
Health studies growth
Among the fastest growing areas at Eastern are health-related studies. The College of Health and Human Services expects an enrollment of more than 4,600 students this fall, an increase of 84 percent over the last 10 years.
The University has invested heavily in this area, training students for a variety of high-paying, high-demand jobs, in programs such as health administration, occupational therapy and nursing.
Last spring, the University launched a new Physician Assistant Program, in recognition of the pending local and national primary care provider shortages and the changing healthcare industry. The Rackham Building was remodeled at a cost of $3.6 million to accommodate the P.A. program and provide expanded lab space for other programs in the College of Health and Human Services.
This fall, the University is offering a new undergraduate degree in public health -- a program developed in response to student demand and needs of the job market.
A centerpiece of health education at Eastern Michigan is the Science Complex, completed in 2012 at a cost of $90 million. The facility is the largest building project in EMU’s history and totals more than 256,000 square feet, with 107 labs.
More students living on campus
The increased enrollment in recent years has meant more students living on campus. Eastern Michigan this fall expects to house more than 3,700 on-campus students, up from about 3,200 in 2010.
Freshman move-in day is Saturday, August 30, which ends with the season-opening home football game against Morgan State University at 6 p.m. First-year football coach Chris Creighton will lead the Eagles, who will be playing on a new, gray playing surface at Rynearson Stadium.
Reasons cited for Eastern’s increased enrollment in recent years include:
• EMU has led the state of Michigan in limiting tuition over the past six years. Of Michigan's 15 public universities, Eastern has the lowest dollar increase during that time. Meanwhile, institutional financial aid to EMU students has increased 100 percent over the last seven years, to $43.8 million this coming academic year.
• Students on University tours are taking notice of the Science Complex. The complex also plays a central role in educating students in fast-growing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. In addition, Pray-Harrold, Eastern's largest and busiest classroom building, underwent a $42 million renovation completed in 2011.
• Over the last six years, Eastern has continually reinvested in improving its residence halls and upgrading classroom technology. This past summer featured improvements to Roosevelt and Alexander halls on the eastern side of campus.
• Eastern has also invested in more advising services, including increasing staff and opening the Francine Parker Advising Center in the Student Center in the summer of 2013. The center is modeled after modern technology retail centers, in which roaming advisers in the front area rapidly respond to short inquiries and help navigate students through updated online resources for academic and career planning.