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September 7, 2016

Freshman Class is Third Largest in University History

Class displays strong academic preparation, diversity and international growth
Students moving in to dorms

Students moved in to campus September 2.

Eastern Michigan University has enrolled the third largest entering freshman class in its 167-year history.

While final enrollment numbers will not be available for several weeks, preliminary figures indicate that 2,780 first-time freshmen are beginning their college education at Eastern this fall. Classes begin today, Sept. 7.

The entering class continues Eastern’s momentum in recent years, in which the University has grown in enrollment in the face of declining demographic trends for high school seniors in the state of Michigan. Since fall 2010, when the University enrolled a total of 2,002 new freshmen, the entering class has grown by 39 percent.

The class also displays solid academic preparation, further growth of The Honors College and in international students, and it spotlights the strong level of diversity to be found on Eastern’s campus. The enrollment also continues to reflect Eastern’s goal of aligning its academic programs with the state’s economic needs, a prime example of which is the RN2BSN online program for working nurses.

"Our freshman enrollment growth illustrates that Eastern Michigan University offers an exceptional learning environment that is tied to today’s academic and career needs,” said Eastern President Jim Smith. “In recent years, we have invested in key academic and student facilities and increased financial aid while working to keep tuition affordable. Those factors, coupled with our excellent faculty and the connection our students enjoy with their instructors, are attracting more and better academically prepared students to Eastern.”

Kevin Kucera, vice president for enrollment management at EMU, noted that entering freshmen and their parents often reference Eastern Michigan’s high quality academic programs and facilities, combined with an affordable tuition rate, as significant factors in their selection of Eastern.

“The 39-percent gain in the size of our freshman class over the last six years is quite striking, particularly when you note the quality of the incoming students and the declining pool of students in the state of Michigan,” Kucera said.

Higher GPAs and ACT scores

In addition to near record numbers, this year's incoming freshman class is well prepared academically. The average GPA of incoming freshmen is 3.26, up from 3.05 in 2010. Average ACT scores have also risen. This year's freshman class has an average ACT score of 22, trending positively from an average of 21.1 in fall 2010.

Increasing diversity

The entering freshman class also underscores the continuing level of diversity at Eastern. The number of newly enrolled African American freshmen and Hispanic freshmen, 860, makes up 31 percent of the entering freshman class.

"Such diversity remains a high priority for Eastern, and is a central aspect of what the University considers necessary for a high quality education in today’s global economy," Smith said.

Honors College growth

The Honors College, which accepts students entering with typically at least a 25 ACT score and 3.5 high school GPA, has more than doubled in freshman enrollment since 2011. This year, The Honors College enrolled more than 420 students in its entering freshman class, with a record 1,791 students in the overall honors program, an increase of 7 percent from last year’s record overall total.

Last winter, The Honors College moved into a new, spacious and highly functional location, the former Holy Trinity Chapel on West Forest Street, on the eastern end of campus. The Honors College was formerly located in historic Starkweather Hall.

Rebecca Sipe, assistant vice president, The Honors College, noted that the college continues to experience success for both present students and recent graduates.

“Our graduates have moved on to medical schools, law schools, other graduate and professional schools or exciting, successful careers,” Sipe said. “In addition, our current student retention and overall grade point average are exceptional. We are excited about our move to new facilities, which is support expansion of programming and interdisciplinary collaborations from across the campus."

More students living on campus

The increased enrollment has also meant more students living on campus. University residence halls and apartments are hosting 3,928 students this semester, up from 3,240 in 2010.

More international and graduate students; strong regional growth

Overall international student enrollment in the University showed a dramatic increase of 44 percent this year, from 153 students in fall 2015 to 221 students, and enrollment in graduate programs increased 4 percent.

In addition, the entering freshman class showed marked growth from last fall in students from Wayne (7.5 percent), Oakland (10.6 percent) and Macomb (16.6 percent) counties. Enrollment in students from Ohio has more than doubled since 2010.

Online nursing program

The University’s RN2BSN accelerated online program for working nurses, which began last September with 36 students, now has 234 students as new cohorts continue to enroll in the ongoing program. The program is intended to allow working nurses to earn their bachelor’s degree, which is now a requirement in the profession, and aligns with the state of Michigan’s clearly articulated goal of matching university academic programs to existing job market demands.

Reasons cited for the increased enrollment at Eastern include:

  • This year, Eastern Michigan University is awarding more than $54 million in financial aid, representing an increase of more than $6 million (12.5 percent) over the 2015-16 financial aid budget of $48 million. Over the past eight years, Eastern Michigan has increased its student financial aid by 130 percent, reflecting its central mission to help Michigan students and their families in a challenging economic environment.
  • Students on University tours are taking notice of the $90 million Science Complex, which serves as the centerpiece of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education at Eastern. Last spring, Michigan lawmakers approved capital funding for the renovation of adjacent Strong Hall, the third and final phase of the Science Complex. Renovations to Strong Hall are expected to begin next year.
  • Over the last eight years, Eastern has continually reinvested in improving its academic facilities and residence halls, along with upgrading classroom technology.

This past summer featured extensive improvements to Wise Residence Hall, along with adoption of a new dining services agreement that will offer students a variety of new dining options on campus covering a wide range of tastes and food styles.

The new features are part of a major overhaul of campus dining services over the next two years, part of an $18 million investment that will result in an overall and significant transformation of EMU campus dining in the months ahead.

Eastern's capital plan has also included academic facility enhancements, improvements in campus safety and security, IT infrastructure and classroom technology.

Eastern has also invested in more advising services, including increasing staff and opening the Francine Parker Advising Center in the Student Center, and opening an additional financial aid walk-in center in McKenny Hall.

by Geoff Larcom

Story Highlights

The entering freshman class, the third largest in EMU's history, continues a trend of strong first-year enrollment despite declining demographic trends.

The class displays solid academic preparation, further growth of The Honors College and in international students, and it spotlights the diversity to be found on Eastern’s campus.

The enrollment reflects Eastern’s goal of aligning its academic programs with the state’s economic needs.

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