By Journal Staff
MARQUETTE - Numbers released by Northern Michigan University recently show a 2 percent gain in the number of incoming freshmen pursuing bachelor's degrees, but overall enrollment dropped by 219 students.
The total freshmen count increased by 22 students, according to the university's 10th day enrollment report.
Northern Michigan University students walk around the 2013 Fall Fest outside the University Center. This semester the overall NMU enrollment is down, but the freshman enrollment is up. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
NMU officials said the rise in new freshmen helped to counter some of the exiting effect of one of the university's largest graduating classes on record last spring.
The report also shows an improvement in academic credentials among incoming freshmen. The average ACT score is now 22.9 and the average high school grade-point average is 3.17.
"We've seen the increase in baccalaureate freshman while the high school demographic is shrinking very quickly in Michigan," NMU institutional research assistant Katie Schoonveld said in a written statement. "About 80 percent of our student body comes from Michigan, so it's good to register some growth in freshmen despite the declining demographics, particularly in the west-central Upper Peninsula."
The number of first-time graduate students is at its highest point in the last five years, with an increase of 39 students, or 35 percent. But with a decrease in transfer students, reflective of a statewide trend facing all Michigan public universities, along with smaller sophomore and senior classes, NMU's total head count is 8,879. That is down 219 students - or 2.4 percent - from last year.
"Obviously if the pool of prospective students is decreasing as it has been, it becomes more critical for the sake of long-term enrollment to hold on to the students already here by making their academic experience more successful, productive and enjoyable," Schoonveld said.
NMU officials have intensified their focus on retaining enrolled students. After a new initiative was implemented last year, initial outcomes showed a 7.4 percent increase in retention among a control group of at-risk freshmen, who are now sophomores.
The four largest academic programs at NMU remain art and design, with 619 majors; nursing, 554; criminal justice, 396; and elementary education, 230.