In recent years, the University’s satellite campuses in Flint and Dearborn have tried to reinvent their commuter college images by expanding recruiting efforts, offering new academic programs and developing on-campus housing options.
And with both campuses reporting record freshman class sizes this year, the effort seems to be paying off.
Enrollment for the freshman class at the University of Michigan-Flint has surged by almost 50 percent this year. According to estimates from a 10-day head count, there are 909 first-year students enrolled this fall, a 45.2 percent increase from last year’s class of 626 students.
The surge in numbers bumped up the campus’s overall enrollment by about 5.5 percent.
Freshman enrollment at the University of Michigan-Dearborn is up about 7 percent and 3 percent overall, according to estimates from Dearborn officials. Both campuses appear to be on pace to meet the strategic growth goals they outlined several years ago.
Official enrollment data of the University’s Ann Arbor campus won’t be available until October, when the Office of the Registrar completes its semester report.
Flint administrators attributed the campus growth to several factors, including more aggressive recruiting and marketing tactics, new academic programs and the campus’ first residence hall, which opened this fall.
“It’s been a combination of a lot of factors that has contributed to this outstanding growth,” Flint spokeswoman Jennifer Hogan said.
Since announcing a goal of increasing the campus enrollment to 8,000 students by 2010 in 2005, administrators have used aggressive and targeted strategies to attract students to the satellite campus.
With the Flint campus’s enrollment now at 7,620 students, Director of Admissions Kimberley Williams said she was confident the campus would meet the goal.
To do this, the campus expanded its “recruiting radius” — the distance school representatives traveled to meet with prospective students — and also participated in international recruiting trips to Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, Hogan said.
Williams said the campus used survey questions from the ACT exam to determine which areas of Michigan, and specifically which high schools, had a large number of students who expressed interest in a field of study offered at the Flint campus.
Campus recruiters identified the metro Detroit counties of Oakland, Macomb and Livingston as good focus areas, Williams said.
Williams said the completion of the campus’ first dormitory this year allowed recruiters to attract more students who lived further from the city.
“Without housing, we were pretty limited in terms of our reach,” she said.
The First Street Residence Hall, which opened this August, houses 300 students.
For the past few years, the campus has also offered “face to face” campus visits that allow prospective students to sit in on classes and have lunch with current students, in addition to traditional campus tours.
Williams said the enrollment surge also reflects increased interest with creation of several new academic programs, including the campus’s new undergraduate journalism major.
The school also recently upgraded its admissions website and increased the amount of direct mailings sent to prospective students, Hogan said.
Williams said the enrollment surge is noticeable in the full recreation center, parking lots and student common areas.
“You can feel the growth as you’re walking across campus,” Williams said. “You can feel that we have more students here this year. It’s really exciting.”
The sudden growth has caused some long lines around campus, scheduling headaches and extended building hours, but those are “good problems to have,” Williams said.
University of Michigan at Dearborn officials are also reporting record freshman enrollment, although this year’s growth is more subtle than in Flint.
Based on preliminary data, the freshman class at the Dearborn campus is expected to be about 960 students, an increase of about 50 students compared to last year, said Stanley Henderson, vice chancellor for enrollment management and student life at Dearborn.
The Dearborn freshman class is the largest in the campus’s history, surpassing the record set last year, when the campus saw an 11 percent surge.
The increase helps Dearborn get closer to its goal of reaching the 12,000-student mark within the next 10 years, Henderson said.
Enrollment at Dearborn was declining until 2004, when numbers started to climb. Since then, the campus’ freshman class has grown 38 percent from 696 students to 960 students, Henderson said.
The campus ramped up its recruiting and marketing campaigns, specifically targeting Detroit residents and adults between the ages of 24 and 35 who are returning to school to complete a degree, Henderson said.
In radio spots and billboards, the campus uses the block ‘M’, trying to emphasize the University of Michigan brand, Henderson said.
“We can communicate very legitimately that we are a part of the University,” he said. “That brand is very attractive to some students.”
To encourage growth, the campus also restructured its scholarship program and created more academic programs, particularly in health-related fields, Henderson said.
Like Flint, Henderson said Dearborn administrators discussed adding on-campus housing as part of its growth plan.
The Dearborn campus is now in talks with a private developer to build student housing within a couple of miles of campus, he said.