ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — The campus of Grand Valley State University will be particularly busy this fall as the university welcomes its largest class of incoming students ever.

Between 2020 and 2022, enrollment numbers dropped by approximately 1,700 students. This year, however, university leaders said they’re bouncing back from that in a major way, welcoming more than 7,000 new undergraduate and graduate students as classes resume Monday. That’s an 18 percent increase in incoming students compared to the fall of 2022. 

GVSU President Philomena Mantella said she believes lower enrollment had a lot to do with the pandemic, and she’s excited to see things turn around.

“People were just, they wanted the full university experience, so if they could make a choice to step out for a year, do something else, a lot of students were doing that,” Mantella explained.

She added that this says a lot about the university, as college enrollment continues to decline across the nation as a whole.

“It speaks volumes because this isn’t happening across public higher education. People are struggling, demographics are declining. We are an export state for talent, so for us to be drawing more Michiganders, more from out of state, more from international countries and for those students who stay here at a higher rate is amazing.”

Not only is this GVSU’s largest class, it’s also one of the most diverse. Rates of African American, Hispanic and international students are up.

Mantella said she feels the university has a duty to attract diverse talent and bring more growth to Michigan. 

“What this is about is an intentional effort to really reach out to our communities, all our communities of color, those that have issues around affording the institution, being sure there’s a place for them, they’re welcome, they feel they belong, and I think critical mass is important to a sense of belonging, but people have to see themselves in the faculty and staff and community they are part of.”

With more than 6,200 students living in residence halls, there was not enough on-campus housing to accommodate the large incoming class. The university has leased out apartments at “Camus West” now known as “GV West,” to provide overflow housing. GVSU said the units will be staffed with Housing and Residence Life staff and patrolled by the Grand Valley Police Department in the same way as on-campus housing.