University officials are worried that Michigan’s shrinking population could result in fewer in-state students applying to and enrolling in the University down the road.
Census figures released last December showed that Michigan’s population had dropped below 10 million for the first time since 2001. Between July 1, 2008 and July 1, 2009, the state lost 32,759 residents, according to the Census Bureau.
Since 2004, the ratio of resident to non-resident students enrolled at the University has remained steady. Though there have been small fluctuations, generally 65 percent of all students has been from Michigan, while 35 percent has been from out of state.
University Provost Teresa Sullivan acknowledged in a recent interview the potential of a decrease in the number of in-state students who attend the University, but she said she doesn’t expect to see a significant decrease any time soon.
“I think it will be a few years before we see a noticeable drop off,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the potential issue could be that with fewer residents living in Michigan, officials will be forced to make a choice between maintaining the current ratio of in-state to out-of-state students by accepting in-state students with lower qualifications or allowing more non-resident students into the University.
The ratio of in-state to out-of-state students generally has stayed the same, Sullivan said, and will continue to stay the same. She added that there have been slight fluctuations in the ratio because the yield — the percentage of admitted students who submit their deposit — varies from year to year.
Sullivan said any drastic change to the ratio of resident to non-resident students admitted to the University would have to be approved by the University’s Board of Regents. Specifically, Sullivan cited the University of Iowa as an example of a university that shifted from a focus on in-state students to out-of-state students.
“Iowa has been losing population for a long time,” Sullivan said. “So they have a much higher fraction of non-resident students because there just aren’t that many high school graduates anymore in Iowa. It’s just a fact that the Great Plains states are depopulating.”
As a result, over the course of the past decade the percentage of resident students at the University of Iowa has decreased 10 percent. In 2000, 68.8 percent of all University of Iowa students were from Iowa, but in 2009 that number dropped to 58.8 percent.
Sullivan said it’s not likely that that kind of drastic drop will occur at the University any time soon. The University enrolled the largest number of undergraduates, 26,208 students, in its history last fall.
Statistics provided by University officials in January showed that applications to the University increased 4.9 percent overall from the previous year. Additionally, in-state applications increased by 6.6 percent.
It was still too early in the application process to determine whether or not there will be an increase in the yield or how many students will actually enroll next fall at the time they provided the statistics, University officials said. But they added that the numbers are a good sign.
Regardless of Michigan’s declining population, Sullivan said, the University will continue to admit only the best students.
“The quality of the students is really important,” Sullivan said.