Flint, MI—University of Michigan-Flint officials hope to bolster enrollment through a new program that guarantees admission to eligible transfer students with certain associate degrees.

Under the new program, instead of using cumulative grade point average (GPA) as a criterion for admission, qualified transfer students now need only an associate of science degree or an associate of arts degree from a regionally accredited college or university to be admissible at UM-Flint.

According to Joe Vainner, director of admissions at UM-Flint, that list of institutions includes any community college in Michigan, such as Mott Community College, Lansing Community College, Delta College and Oakland Community College.

“We were trying to find a way to value that associate degree and the classes the students have taken without letting that initial college experience where they didn’t do so well keep them from ever being admissible,” Vainner said. 

An associate degree typically requires a 2-year program, while a bachelor degree generally requires a 4-year program.

Vainner explained that arts and science associate degrees are designed as stepping stones for a bachelor degree. But, he said, for those who obtain that associate degree after dropping out of a bachelor degree program, considering cumulative GPA can hurt their chances for admission to UM-Flint.

“[For] a student who fails a significant number of classes in two or three semesters, it’s going take a long time for them to get a cumulative GPA up to where it needs to be to be admitted under our traditional admission criteria,” Vainner said.

Those traditional criteria for undergraduate transfer students include a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0, he added.

The guaranteed-admission program is one example of the university’s methods to attract more students amid declining enrollment.

The university’s fall semester student headcount has decreased by roughly 30 percent over the past eight years, from nearly 8,600 students in 2014 to under 6,000 students in 2022.

Lori Vedder, UM-Flint’s interim vice provost for enrollment management and director of financial aid, said the university’s enrollment challenges reflect a broader trend in the region.

“Colleges and universities—except for probably your large research institutions—throughout the Midwest are hurting for students,” Vedder said.

But UM-Flint officials have also pointed to recent achievements in enrollment. For instance, the university saw an increase in new undergraduate transfer students for the first time in more than a decade this year, with a nearly 10 percent rise from 2021 to 2022. 

Vainner attributed UM-Flint’s expansion of online degree programs as one reason for that improvement.

“For transfer students who often have jobs and families and other commitments, having to come down to campus two, three, four times a week for classes can be a real barrier,” said Vainner. “To be able to complete that degree 100 percent online makes it a lot more accessible.”

He added that UM-Flint has also benefited from students participating in state programs like Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners, which launched in 2021 and 2020 respectively, that support them in receiving an associate degree. 

“Some of the students who enter community college under those programs are starting to finish their associate degrees and they make their way up to the 4-year schools,” Vainner said.

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...