WMU blames enrollment decline on low birth rate

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Many colleges across the state are seeing enrollment declines, with fewer freshmen arriving on campus.

The latest projections for Western Michigan University indicate enrollment is expected to drop about 4 percent this fall, which works out to approximately 902 students.

According to Provost Jennifer Bott, the decline is the result of a drop in the birth rate 18 years ago.

“The Midwest and the Northeast are the two most heavily impacted by a lack of college-going freshmen,” Bott said.

With colleges drawing from a smaller pool of potential students, many are launching new academic programs and upgrading facilities to attract them. Western Michigan has several projects planned or currently under construction.

The new Arcadia Flats dormitory is a $60 million project that is expected to be finished for students next fall. The university will also have a new dining hall and student’s center. Renovations were made to the first floor of Waldo Library, which include new carpeting and a new ceiling. Crews were putting the finishing touches on that project as students arrived this semester.

Local universities have not conducted the official fall student count but a few were able to provide some projections. Enrollment is expected to increase at Kalamazoo College, which has approximately 1,467 students. Slight decreases are expected at Hope College, which has 3,150 students enrolled, and Calvin University, which is projected to have about 3,600 students this year.

Kalamazoo College

  • 2018: 1,467 students
  • 2019: 1,500 projected

Hope College

  • 2018: 3,150
  • 2019: 3,000 projected

Calvin University

  • 2018: 900 (freshman & transfer students)
  • 2019: 850 projected

WMU and many other colleges will conduct the official student census next week.

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