Enrollment Record Set
Northern has recorded all-time highs for both total headcount and undergraduate enrollment. The final fall-semester headcount was 9,689, up from 9,500 the previous year. The number of undergraduate students within that total was 8,880.
Paul Duby (Institutional Research) said it has been a “long, difficult ” recovery since enrollment bottomed out at about 7,600 after the closure of K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in 1995. The student body has grown by nearly 2,100 students since that time, despite declining high school graduating classes in the Upper Peninsula.
“We’ve not only gained students, but we’re also moving more in a classic undergraduate direction. In 2000, we decided we were going to focus our efforts on recruiting first-time, full-time freshmen. As a result, the average age of our undergraduate student body is dropping and 90 percent of our undergraduates attend school full time. Some universities have taken band-aid approaches to increasing their numbers, but Northern is building the infrastructure required to have a sustaining enrollment base.”
Duby added that the increase of nearly 28 percent in total headcount since the Air Force base closed has been accompanied by stronger academic credentials among incoming freshmen and – more importantly – an increase in student retention and graduation statistics.
“Northern is recruiting a higher percentage of students who come equipped with the strengths needed to be successful, but the university has also wisely invested in support programs to increase the success of at-risk students,” he said. “Both of these have helped with retention. Retaining a student through graduation saves a university from having to recruit three new students.”
Support programs he cited include the academic and career advisement center, the first-year experience program, individual tutoring, writing and math assistance centers and the student support services office.
Duby is optimistic that new academic programs now being considered, such as loss prevention and radiography, will help boost Northern’s headcount to about 9,800 by fall 2007.