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The University of Michigan expects to yield a freshman class size of 6,600 for the class of 2020 — an increase of about 500 from the class of 2019 — potentially making it the largest freshman class in University history and a reflection of the rapid growth in applicants to the University since 2010.
After enrolling 6,505 freshmen in 2014 — overshooting a target class size of 6,000 — administrators expressed frustration that over-enrollment was straining the University’s housing and instructional resources. To combat this over-enrollment, admissions procedures were changed for the subsequent freshman class by reducing early admission offers and making greater use of the waitlist. As a result, only 6,071 freshmen entered campus in 2015.
For the 2015-16 admission cycle, 55,500 students applied for admission to the University, a 6.7 percent increase from the previous year. Of those who applied, 16,100 were admitted for an acceptance rate of 29 percent, and the University estimates 6,600 freshman will be on campus come September — a yield rate of 41 percent. This represents a three-point increase in the University's acceptance rate over the past admissions cycle and a four-point decline in its yield.
Also of note was the disparity between in-state and out-of-state acceptance rates. Of the 10,959 Michigan residents who applied for admission, 42.2 percent were accepted, while 24.5 percent of the 44,541 out-of-state and international applicants to the University were admitted.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the increase to 6,600 freshman enrolled this upcoming year was intentional, and University provost Martha Pollack coordinated with University schools and divisions to ensure adequate instructional and housing capacity. With the hiring of new faculty, creation of additional intro-level course sections and the completion of maintenance on housing facilities, the University will be able to accommodate more than 6,000 students, unlike in 2014.
Fitzgerald said the decision to increase class size was driven by the continued growth of the University's applicant pool. After switching to the Common Application — an application students can use to apply to hundreds of schools — in 2010, the number of applicants to the University immediately jumped by 25 percent, and the number of applicants has increased with each consecutive year. In the past six years, the annual number of freshman applicants to the University has increased by almost 24,000.
“The number of applications continue to go up … and the University wanted to legitimately look at things carefully and say, ‘could we accommodate more of these students showing this great interest in coming to Michigan?’ ” Fitzgerald said. “Could we accommodate them without stretching ourselves too thin or at great additional expense? And what the University has decided is there is room for some growth as long as we can manage it properly and know what to expect.”
To exercise greater control over class size, the University's admissions office has reduced the number of early admission offers it grants in December, placing greater emphasis on the regular decision cycle and the waitlist. Fitzgerald said that doing so would grant the admissions office greater flexibility later in the admissions cycle, as students who are accepted early are more likely to matriculate.
“Doing fewer students who we know will come … helps to increase the overall diversity of the class as well and leaves some more flexibility in the normal admissions process,” he said.
In addition, Fitzgerald said the University has reduced the lag time between the release of admissions decisions and financial aid information to further streamline the admissions and matriculation process, allowing prospective students to have the necessary information to commit to enrolling at the University sooner.
“That really helps students make a better-informed decision earlier in the process,” Fitzgerald said. “Reducing that gap of time really helps students make their decisions about coming to Michigan or not.”
Editor's Note: Lara Moehlman contributed to the reporting in this article