UM-Flint town hall to address declining enrollment, low graduation rates

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan-Flint is grappling with an enrollment decline and low six-year graduation rates, prompting leaders to call it "unsustainable" and present a plan Friday to the community.

UM-Flint Chancellor Debasish Dutta and UM President Mary Sue Coleman will preside over the 10 a.m. meeting at the UM-Flint Riverfront Conference Center as enrollment at UM-Flint has dropped 30% from 2014-15 and six-year graduation rates are the lowest among the state’s 15 public universities.

Opening her last regents meeting as president before President-elect Santa Ono begins his post next month, Coleman said UM-Flint is "facing unprecedented challenges" and overall enrollment is "unsustainable."

The campus of University of Michigan - Flint in Flint, Michigan on July 14, 2016.

"More and more students from the Flint area are choosing to attend college elsewhere or not at all," said Coleman, who will join the meeting virtually. “We must make changes, and they must be bold if UM-Flint is to thrive. "

In fall 2016, UM-Flint enrolled 8,044 students. But enrollment dropped to 6,418 in fall 2021, according to reports by the Michigan Association of State Universities.

Of the students who enrolled at UM-Flint in 2015-16, 53.2% graduated in six years, according to MISchool Data, the state's official education data source. During that same time period, 77% of students graduated from all of the state's public universities.

Dutta highlighted the growth this fall in new-student enrollment on the Flint campus for the first time in five years, but added more work needs to be done to continue the trend.

"In the same way that the city of Flint has been reshaping its identity for the past 40 years, we, the University of Michigan-Flint, have to proactively shape our future," said Dutta. "We owe it to our students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters and the city of Flint."

"Paraphrasing a famous quote, 'The work ahead will seem impossible, but only until it is done,'" he added.

The town hall meeting falls on the 66th anniversary of the UM-Flint's campus opening in 1956.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com