Freshmen keep state colleges on their toes

November 17, 2008
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LANSING — Despite economic hardships, freshmen are plentiful this fall at many Michigan public universities.

“Last year was the largest graduating cohort of Michigan high school students that the state will see in a long while,” said Betty Wayne, director of undergraduate admissions at Central Michigan University, which is working with its largest freshman class ever.

She warned that Michigan universities may see a heavy decline in new enrollments next year because the latest financial meltdown occurred after many students already were enrolled and tuition bills were paid — late in August and early September. The numbers at Central might not always be so high, she said, predicting a future decrease because of a drop in the number of high-school-aged graduates.

Wayne State University is one of the few schools that saw a decrease in fall 2008 enrollment.

“More and more students are beginning their education at community colleges because it’s cheaper,” said Susan Zwieg, director of undergraduate admissions at Wayne State. The class of 2012 is 3,000, down 5 percent from last year.

Zweig said that while the overall number of incoming students decreased at Wayne State, the number of Latino and African-American students has increased, a reflection of Detroit’s demographics. She also said that Wayne State’s recruitment effort has suffered because of cuts to state funding.

“We could do more if we had more money. We could go out of state to urban areas like Cleveland and Chicago,” where students might be especially attracted to the city life of Detroit, she said.

At Grand Valley State University, the freshmen numbers are growing. It took in about 3,900 first-year students, up 400 from last fall, according to the university.

Michigan State University’s population of newcomers isn’t feeling the burn of a bad economy either. Its freshman class is a bit larger than last year’s, and it received 1,000 more applications for 2008 than in 2007.

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