The university wants to keep enrollment at around 20,000 students in order to maintain “a sense of community” that is often lost with larger universities, President Mark Murray said. The goal is to maintain comparatively smaller class sizes and a level of personal attention to students by educators, Murray said.
“We’re a little concerned that we’d begin to lose that if we just keep growing,” he said during an address last week at the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly breakfast.
“It’s a challenge when you get too big,” Murray said. “We are now at a point where we are slowing the growth.”
Grand Valley State’s enrollment reached 20,472 students when the present school year began last fall.
Michigan’s fastest-growing public university, Grand Valley State’s enrollment grew 58 percent during the decade from the 1990-91 school year to 2000-01 — from 11,726 to 18,579 students.
Applications for enrollment grew 25 percent alone for the 2002-03 school year, Murray said. About 11,000 applications have already been received for this fall, an increase of about one-third, said Matt McLogan, Grand Valley’s vice president for university relations.
In seeking to keep the incoming freshman class at 3,000 students, Grand Valley State raised admission standards for 2002-03, Murray said. He anticipates another increase in admission standards will come for the 2004-05 school year, he said.
“Our goal is to stay about the size we are now,” Murray said.
Slowing Grand Valley State’s enrollment will enable administrators to focus more on academic programming and quality, and curtail new construction in the years ahead.
In Holland, where Grand Valley State opened a new campus in 1998 that houses about 1,000 students, there are “no immediate plans” for expansion within the next couple of years, Murray said.
Academically, Grand Valley State will maintain a focus on offering liberal arts programs at the undergraduate level, mixed with professional graduate degree programs.
“We’re going to stay with our focus,” Murray said. “What we do, we believe, is valuable and we’re going stay in that niche.”
And that niche will likely become more expensive in the near future.
The state budget crisis, and the resulting cuts in aid to higher education that are expected to occur, will likely force Grand Valley State to raise tuition accordingly, Murray said.
Grand Valley State trustees last year, reacting to flat funding levels from the state, raised tuition 8.5 percent, or about $200 per semester for a full-time student. The increases took the Grand Valley State’s tuition for freshman who are Michigan residents to $2,572 per semester.
“We are going to be in for a period here in the next couple of years with significant challenges,” Murray said. “We will probably be coming back for additional tuition, which concerns us.”
Among the concerns is a balance students will need to strike between their studies and holding a job to help pay for the increased cost of their education. Murray constantly hears from faculty members about students working too many hours, he said.
“That’s an equation that’s very, very difficult to manage,” Murray said.