Report: More low-income, first-gen students attending UM

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

One in four University of Michigan in-state undergraduates is paying no tuition because of financial aid, contributing to a boost in the number of students from low-income families, according to a fall enrollment report released Tuesday.

The students who are paying no tuition include nearly 1,700 beneficiaries of UM's Go Blue Guarantee — four years of free tuition for students from in-state families making up to $65,000 a year. Undergraduate tuition — which does not include room and board — for in-state students is $15,262 for 2018-19.

UM also reported a 24 percent increase in admissions applications from some of the state’s lowest-income students in its first year since implementing the program. That led to a nearly 6 percent increase in freshman enrollment this fall from students whose families earned $65,000 or less.

Students who are the first generation in their family to attend a four-year college or university make up 14 percent of the new freshman class, up from 11.3 percent in 2014, according to the report.

"Through the Go Blue Guarantee and commitment to financial aid, we are sending a message to the people of our state and beyond that we seek to welcome students from all communities and backgrounds who have the talent and desire to be Michigan Wolverines,” President Mark Schlissel said.

The report comes as UM has been working to economically diversify its student body.  According to 2016 UM data, the latest available, 9 percent of in-state undergraduate students hailed from families with incomes below $25,000; 7 percent came from families earning between $25,001-$50,000 and 14 percent came from families with income of $50,001-$100,000.

Meanwhile, 13 percent of students came from families earning $100,001-$150,000 and the majority, 56 percent, came from families earning more than $150,000.

UM noted an analysis done by Bridge Magazine in June that showed the school has the lowest net cost among the state’s 15 public universities for students with an annual family income up to $75,000.

“The long-range goal is to motivate and challenge students, especially those who see their family income as a barrier to higher education because they now know that a University of Michigan education is within their reach,” said Kedra Ishop, vice provost for enrollment management.

UM also reported that the percentage of Pell grant recipients increased to 17.9 percent, up from 16.5 percent in 2014.

The report shows that campus enrollment increased 1.6 percent over fall 2017 to 46,716 students, with 30,318 undergraduates and 16,398 graduate and professional school students. In 2017-18, total enrollment was 46,002.

As in previous years, a record number of students, 64,917, applied to attend UM's Ann Arbor campus. Of those, the university offered admittance to 14,818 freshmen. Accepting were 6,695 students, which made the 2018-19 freshman class slightly smaller than last year.

Among in-state students, 40.5 percent of the 12,177 students who applied were offered admission and 3,554 in-state freshmen enrolled, meaning Michigan students make up 53 percent of the incoming class. 

By comparison, 18.8 percent of 52,740 out-of-state and international applicants were offered admission. Among those, 3,141 enrolled.

"As has been the case for many, many years, we received applications from far greater numbers of qualified students than our campus is able to accommodate," said Erica Sanders, director of undergraduate admissions.

“We rely on our holistic review process to select students who not only have the academic record to succeed at UM, but also a strong interest in our university and connection with our institutional mission and goals.”

The number of underrepresented minorities and first-generation students also is increasing at UM, according to the report.

Of the 6,403 newly enrolled freshmen who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, 949 are underrepresented minorities, making up 14.8 percent of new students. That is an increase from 13.9 percent last year and 10 percent in 2014.

Leading the enrollment of racial and ethnic groups are Hispanics, who make up 7.28 percent, or 2,891, of UM's 39,732 enrolled students who are U.S. or permanent citizens. By comparison, African-Americans make up 5.07 percent, or 2,015, of UM students.

“We’re making progress in some areas and face challenges in others. We have to continue to find legal solutions to provide the opportunity of a Michigan education to a diverse set of students,” Ishop said. “We’re not there yet.”