MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (WXYZ) — The impact of declining enrollment at Central Michigan University isn’t only felt by its own financial accounts. Local businesses in a college town like Mount Pleasant also feel the ripple effect.
“We have such deep roots in this community, and we’ve got a really strong following in the community that really, really loves and supports us, but we have definitely noticed the decline over the years,” Benjamin Breidenstein, co-owner of Bird Bar & Grill, said.
According to enrollment data compiled by the Michigan Association of State Universities, 28,389 students were enrolled at Central Michigan in 2010.
In 2021, 15,465 students were enrolled, which is a 45% drop.
“If it’s a really busy night, we’re not really getting the lines like we used to. It still makes us a little weary of the future and what CMU is going to have in store for us as we go forward,” Breidenstein said.
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A group of CMU students shared the same concerns, co-authoring a letter to the editor of Central Michigan Life, the campus newspaper.
“The university is going through the worst enrollment decline in the state - unlike anything CMU has ever seen. We students are worried about whether this university will be around in the next 10 years,” the group stated.
Jennifer DeHaemers, who joined the university in June of 2020 is the vice president of student recruitment and retention, said the university didn't take bold steps to reverse the trend.
“People were a little complacent in thinking that ‘oh, it’ll turn around next year. It’s just a small decline. Oh, next year will be better' and then, before you know it you have 5 years, 6 years, 10 years worth of decline," said DeHaemers.
She says CMU's decline is a balance of CMU not doing enough to recruit while other institutions stepped up and did more.
DeHaemers sent an email to the university community focusing on this fall, looking at new technology to respond to students quicker and in a more personalized way. And following up personally with prospective students who may be interested in attending.
“As prospective students contact us about learning more about CMU, it’s really about trying to understand what they want out of their education experience certainly, what major are they most interested in. But also, what clubs and activities are you currently involved in that you hope to continue or to grow in as a college student?” said DeHaemers.