The University has always been known for its high-caliber academics, its dedication to furthering research and its large in-state student body. But with Michigan residents leaving the state in large numbers in response to the poor economic climate, the ratio of in-state to out-of state students enrolled at the University could change. And though the University may be forced to change its in-state to out-of-state student ratio to maintain its academic reputation, it should remember its commitment to the state and its residents. To help benefit Michigan’s failing economy, the University should focus on the creation of programs that will keep students in Michigan after they graduate.

Currently, 65 percent of University students are Michigan residents. 35 percent of students are non-Michigan residents. But, as the Daily reported last week, a December 2009 U.S. Census study showed that at least 32,759 residents have left the state between July 2008 and July 2009. The state population is currently hovering at a little under 10 million residents. The residential population has not been under 10 million since 2001. Despite the declining in-state population, the number of in-state applications to the University rose by 6.6 percent. And while the University is fully aware of the dwindling population, officials — including University Provost Theresa Sullivan — aren’t concerned about the decrease in state population.

As Sullivan pointed out in a recent Daily article, the declining state population isn’t expected to reflect a huge change in in-state applicants and enrollees in the near future. But in the event that an even larger population decrease occurs in the future, the University must stay committed to Michigan and its residents. The University is a public institution and Michigan residents support it through taxes. In return, the University must maintain its commitment to the state.

But the University’s commitment may not always mean preferring in-state to out-of-state students. The state depends on the University to produce the best possible workforce, and that means the University must maintain its high academic caliber. It would be a disservice to the University and the state if students accepted weren’t well qualified. University graduates are in prime position to stimulate the growth of science and technology industries in Michigan. Regardless of population changes, the University must continue to admit highly qualified individuals to ensure its continued production of students that will benefit the changing Michigan economy.

It is currently unclear what — if anything at all — the state’s population decrease will mean for University enrollment. The University may find no shortage of highly qualified Michigan students to admit. But regardless of a potential ratio change, the University should encourage students to stay in Michigan after graduation. The University should further develop partnerships like the job placement program that the College of Engineering has with Ford Motor Co. Programs similar to this partnership will encourage University graduates to seek employment within the state.

To maintain a balance between a commitment to academic excellence and a commitment to the state, the University must produce a workforce that will benefit the state’s economy. Building up and creating programs that would encourage students to remain in state after graduation is just one way that the University and the state could improve.

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