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Wayne State University's Old Main Building. Daily Detroit File Photo.
Wayne State University's Old Main Building. Daily Detroit File Photo.

Although Wayne State has been making a large number of physical improvements to their campus as of late, their actual enrollment has actually gone down each of the last seven years.

That trend has stopped for this school year, with enrollment rising just a bit – 0.4 percent,  or 104 students — this fall. Current enrollment is now 27,326. Their goal is to get to 30,000 students by 2020.

When it comes to those living on campus, they now have 7,346 new students — the most in recent years and a 2.5 percent increase over last year’s large incoming class. The positive enrollment extends to freshmen (1 percent), transfers (6.7 percent) and graduate students (5.9 percent).

Schools and colleges leading the growth are the College of Nursing (16.5 percent), Mike Ilitch School of Business (14.1 percent), the College of Engineering (7.1 percent), the School of Library and Information Science (6.6 percent), and the School of Social Work (5.9 percent). In the Graduate School, according to the University’s press office, new master’s students are up 41 percent over the past three years.

Graduation rates are still an are the University need to work on. Wayne State’s six-year graduation rate now exceeds 38 percent this year, up at least 12 percentage points over the past five years.

That rate of improvement puts Wayne State in the top 20 public institutions nationally for rate of improvement over the past four years, however, they still lag well behind state leaders University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) at 90 percent, Michigan State (78 percent) and Grand Valley (70 percent). A key metric in the university’s strategic plan is to grow the six-year graduation rate to 50 percent by 2021, which would put them in the middle of the pack.

The school says they’re taking numerous steps to address this.

Forty-five advisors have been hired for academic departments in the last few years and more students have utilized academic advising services. Students have been given access to a web-based tool called DegreeWorks, which allows them to map out and track their progress toward a degree. Also, there’s a new “priority registration sequence” to help students close to graduation get needed courses, using predictive analytics to identify students with elevated risk as early as possible and, beginning in winter 2017, a new course scheduling matrix that eliminates overlap between classes.

“We’re attracting a higher caliber of student while also remaining a place of opportunity,” said Dawn Medley, associate provost for enrollment management. “In addition to our diverse academic programs and gorgeous campus, I think more students are drawn to Wayne State because it is in the middle of the renaissance happening in Detroit.”