Northern Michigan University’s 10th day enrollment report reflects a projected decrease in total headcount attributed to declining high school demographics and larger graduating classes in recent years. But the number of concurrently enrolled high school students has increased through expanded NMU partnerships with regional school districts that enable students to complete college credits prior to high school graduation at no tuition cost.
Concurrent enrollment is 132, compared with 12 last year. Jason Nicholas, NMU director of institutional research and analysis, said additional gains are expected in the category with schools returning to session this week.
The total headcount of NMU undergraduate and graduate students is 7,750, a decrease of 419 or 5.1 percent from last year’s figure.
“NMU’s decline is related more to demographics than anything,” Nicholas said. “The size of today’s high school senior classes is smaller than previous years. This is a trend we are seeing throughout the Midwest, but in a bigger way in Michigan. We have fewer students coming out of high school, so we see fewer applications to the university. Ultimately, this results in a decline in enrollment. The decline is compounded by the fact that our larger-than-average freshmen classes from four and five years ago are now graduating and being replaced by smaller class sizes. When you combine these two factors, it turns into a more pronounced drop in enrollment than we’ve seen in previous years.”
Northern’s new first-time freshmen applications were at about 5,500 this year and 5,965 last year. Nicholas said this is likely related to smaller high school graduating classes more than tuition rates, which are the second most affordable in the state. Factoring in scholarships and financial aid, NMU is the most affordable.
“We are continuing to see strong enrollment in programs such as art and design, nursing and criminal justice, with growth in other programs such as biology, public administration and construction management,” Nicholas said. “With many programs ranging across all degree types, Northern really has something to offer every student.”
NMU recently announced its new Educational Access Network, which will extend high-speed educational broadband to new populations across the Upper Peninsula and perhaps beyond. The EAN is available to any students taking NMU courses, whether they are on campus seeking a degree, at a partner high school offering dual enrollment or at home taking a class for continuing education, professional development or personal fulfillment. Nicholas said the EAN is too new to register on the 10th day report, but will likely enhance non-degree enrollment moving forward.
Academic credentials of incoming freshmen are holding steady. Student credit hours have decreased, which Nicholas attributes in part to the revised flat-rate tuition structure. The rate formerly applied to students taking 12-18 credits, but the maximum was reduced to 16 earlier this year.