GVSU enrollment shows increase in first-year students, diversity

Mary Idema Pew Library building
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

Grand Valley State University welcomed one of its largest first-year classes in its history. The university has enrolled more than 4,000 first-year students for the seventh year in a row, and they are coming in with stellar academic records and taking more classes. This is one of the highest freshman enrollments in Michigan, which is seeing a decline in the number of high school graduates. 

Total enrollment at the university is 24,677, with a first-year class of 4,369, which is an increase of more than 4 percent (4.4). There is a 6 percent increase in the number of new students of color (678 to 719), and the total percentage of racial and ethnic minority students is up slightly at 17.4 percent compared to 17.3 percent last year. The number of new students, undergraduate and graduate, coming from out of state is up 9.5 percent (610 compared to 557).

These numbers come on the heels of Grand Valley awarding the most degrees in its history during the 2017-2018 academic year (5,730).

"We continue to attract top students who will succeed and graduate," said President Thomas J. Haas. "Students are seeing what a great value a Grand Valley degree is, both in terms of affordability and the options they have after graduation. They come and they stay with their programs because of faculty and staff members who are dedicated to student success. Even with the demographic challenges in the state, Grand Valley's enrollment is strong and ensures a stable future for the university and the communities and employers who depend on our graduates."

University data shows the second-highest retention rate in its history for first-year students at 84.5 percent. Grand Valley is in the top three for Michigan's public universities for retaining students. The average course load undergraduates are taking has also increased, meaning the time to a degree is shortened. The university motivates students to finish in four years by awarding the $1,000 Grand Finish scholarship to students entering their fourth year with at least 90 credits. The university boosted financial aid for students by $5.1 million in July to give more scholarships and grants to students.

"We were able to award the most financial aid in our history this fall," said Lynn Blue, vice president for Enrollment Development. "President Haas and his administration, along with the Board of Trustees, are committed to keeping a Grand Valley degree within financial reach. Scholarships allow us to attract strong students who need financial assistance. We have great partnerships that result in programs like the Thompson Working Family Scholarship which allow a smoother pathway to a degree. We are excited about the students who are choosing to study with us and thrilled we can offer financial help along the way."

This fall, 200 more students received a Thompson Scholarship, which awards $5,000 per year for four years. Grand Valley currently has 325 Thompson Scholars.

Students have enrolled from all across Michigan, with 1,783 coming from other states, and 396 coming from other countries.

Of recent Grand Valley graduates, 93 percent are employed or pursuing advanced degrees, and of those working, 86 percent are in Michigan. The university has been chosen as a "Best Value" and "Best Public Regional University" by U.S. News and World Report. Princeton Review named Grand Valley among the "Best in the Midwest," and for more than two decades, Grand Valley has been named one of "America's 100 Best College Buys" by Institutional Research and Evaluation.

For more details on Grand Valley's performance, visit www.gvsu.edu/accountability.