YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University expected to graduate the largest number of students in its 164-year history during the university’s commencement ceremonies April 28.
As of last Friday, 2,376 students have submitted applications to graduate during one of the two commencement ceremonies on Sunday, topping the record of 2,354, set last year. Final graduation numbers will be known in May.
This year’s projected graduation numbers represent an increase of more than 27 percent from 2007, continuing an upward trend from that year, when 1,863 students graduated during winter commencement.
The projected commencement totals follow last fall’s record enrollment, when Eastern welcomed the largest incoming undergraduate class in its history, with 5,076 students. The total, which included first-time freshmen, transfer students, students pursuing a second degree, and other types of new undergraduate students, represented an increase of 6 percent from the previous Eastern record of 4,751 in 2001.
The entering freshman class was the largest in a decade, with an enrollment of 2,595, compared to 2,130 in fall 2011, an increase of 21 percent.
This year also saw growth in on-campus housing, as 3,761 students chose to live on campus — the largest number at Eastern since 2003. A key part of that growth is due to Eastern’s commitment to ongoing upgrades to its residence halls and dining facilities.
“Increasing the number of students who graduate has been an extremely high priority,” said Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin. “Eastern’s faculty and staff have worked hard to support our students toward completing their degree. This includes academic advising, tutoring, and more financial aid — and the result is 2,376 students at commencement!”
Some noteworthy resources that help students progress toward a degree at Eastern include:
• The Holman Success Center, which provides academic support for EMU undergraduates. The free services include peer tutoring for various undergraduate classes, supplemental instruction for various general education classes, and academic success coaches, who work individually with students to help them optimize their academic performance.
• Dual enrollment opportunities, in which high school students who have completed four semesters with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 are eligible for dual enrollment at EMU. The process allows students to take college-level classes while still in high school, with the credits becoming part of the student’s college transcript, and possibly used to meet high school graduation requirements.
• Growth of EMU Honors College, which offers further evidence of EMU’s improved academic standing. Membership in the Honors College has increased from 754 students in the 2010 winter term to 1002 students in winter 2013, a growth of about 33 percent.
• The EMU Writing Center, which provides support through multiple means to all members of the EMU community, now has satellite locations in each of Eastern’s five colleges.
Other key areas have also played a role in EMU’s increasing graduation numbers and enrollment growth. Those areas include:
Tuition restraint: EMU has been a nationwide leader in holding down costs for students and their families. Over the past four years, Eastern’s average increase of 2.86 percent in tuition and mandatory fees has been the lowest among Michigan’s 15 public universities. EMU students pay only $32 more per credit hour than four years ago. Eastern also offers in-state tuition to all American veterans regardless of their state of residence.
Financial aid: The University has increased its financial aid support of students by 78 percent over the last six years, from $21.4 million to $38 million.
Academics: A recent Deloitte study showed that 72 percent of Eastern undergraduate students are studying in areas of high-demand jobs, and 70 percent of master’s students are in high-demand areas.
To further maximize career opportunities for its graduates, EMU has continued to increase its partnerships with community colleges. The University now has more than 120 articulation agreements that allow students to begin studies at a community college and then transfer a considerable number of credits toward a bachelor’s degree in a given career-focused major, such as nursing.
Facilities: Students this year have enjoyed the second phase of EMU’s $90 million, self-funded Science Complex, which is the renovation of the existing classroom building that reopened in September. Along with the Science Complex Addition, which opened in February 2011 and features a spherical planetarium located five stories above an atrium, the overall project is the largest in EMU’s history. It is a crucial element in Eastern’s ability to educate future scientists, researchers, and teachers and graduates in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, an area where jobs are projected to grow three times faster than other forms of employment.
In September 2011, Eastern reopened its largest and busiest classroom building, Pray-Harrold, after a fast-track move-out and renovation that involved a wide variety of improvements to the classroom facilities and student spaces. The project was a collaboration with the state, which supplied $31.5 million of the $42 million project cost. Both the Science Complex and Pray-Harrold feature enhanced classroom technology and equipment.
In addition, EMU has made numerous prudent and environmentally sound improvements to residence halls and to student living spaces. The latest are the renovations to Hoyt Residence Hall, which came on line this past fall, completing the renovations of all three residence hall towers (Pittman and Hill are the other two).
Campus safety and security: Most noteworthy among the many improvements in this area is the new Department of Public Safety headquarters, located at the northwest end of campus. EMU remodeled the former Hoyt Conference Center for a cost of $3.9 million into a state-of-the-art facility. Particularly important is the dispatch facility, which monitors the extensive network of nearly 500 cameras located in the exterior and interior of academic and residence hall buildings around campus.
EMU also created a Crime Response Unit dedicated to working on crimes on and around the campus area. A top priority has been to decrease burglaries, which have dropped dramatically at EMU. Campus burglaries decreased 31 percent from 2009 to 2011, falling from 42 to13, according to the latest annual EMU Security Report. Burglaries in Eastern’s residence halls and student apartments dropped even more, falling 59 percent, from 31 in 2009 to just 9 in 2011 according to the report.
Other safety-related improvements include hiring new dispatchers and patrol officers and numerous safety measures, including residence hall swipe cards at entrances, and the creation of an emergency alert text and email system, and an outdoor and indoor speaker system for use during campus emergencies.