By Stephen Konecny
Western Michigan University is experiencing its lowest enrollment, application and enrollment yield numbers of the last 10 years, according to institutional data.
Considering the size of WMU, it receives a lot of applications every year. The 2016-17 school year saw almost 14,000 applications, but just over 3,000 students were enrolled, which is a 26.4 percent yield.
This school year saw the lowest number of students enrolled in the past 10 years, and the yield is the third lowest it’s been in the last 10 years. The amount of applications is the lowest it’s been since 2009, so why is WMU heading in this direction, and what is WMU doing to increase enrollment?
As of the 2013-14 school year, 82 percent of students attending public high schools in the United States graduate, which is up from the 73 percent graduation rate during the 2005-06 school year, according to an article from nces.ed.gov, a website dedicated to education statistics. Michigan public high school graduation rates are slightly lower than the national average, at 70 to 79 percent. WMU draws heavily from the in-state high school population,
The cost of college is a factor in students’ choice of what college they want to attend. At WMU, undergraduates pay just under $550 per credit hour for in-state residents. On top of that, for students taking five credit hours or more, there are just over $460 in fees. Add parking fees on top of that, which are $300 for a year, and the costs can be high.
Meredith Wykowski, a 21-year-old senior at WMU, has had to take out student loans to put herself through college. “I think (student loans) could be a factor, since student loans are as high as they are,” Wyknoski said. “I think that’s a factor for anyone attending any college today.”
Increasingly, students are going the route of attending a community college and transferring to Western after a year or two in order to save money on general education credits. Leah Molter, an employee for WMU’s enrollment office, said that most credits from community colleges in Michigan easily transfer to Western.
Another factor in students’ choice of college is the quality of the facilities, such as dorms, classrooms, and dining halls.
One thing WMU is doing to combat low enrollment numbers is building and updating facilities throughout campus. A new dining hall and dorm room building were just constructed, as well as Sangren Hall, which was built in the last 3 years. “I think the new buildings are good, but the old ones need some work,” Kyle Vanheulen-Seibert, a junior at WMU, said. “I think they could use new lighting and a new ventilation system.”
WMU is also offering a wide range of scholarships to attract students. Incoming freshman for the 2017 school year have 15 different scholarships they can apply for, including the Medallion Scholarship, which awards a total of $60,000; 16 recipients were chosen for the scholarship in 2015. WMU also offers 15 different sports, which all award full ride scholarships to some of their athletes. The football team alone awards over 80 full-ride scholarships.