U-M’s 2021 fall enrollment tops 50,000 for first time


The University of Michigan welcomed its largest-ever class of first-year students this fall, helping to push the Ann Arbor campus’ overall student body to more than 50,000 students for the first time in the university’s history.

The new class also is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse classes in years, with 37 percent of first-year students identifying as persons of color.

The record-setting enrollment caps an admissions season marked by skyrocketing student interest and the ongoing global pandemic.

Nearly 80,000 prospective first-year students applied to enroll at U-M this fall — nearly 15,000 more than the previous year — creating the largest applicant pool in the university’s history.

From this fall’s 79,743 applications, U-M offered admission to 16,071 first-year students.

Of those admitted, 75 percent of in-state students and a third of out-of-state students eventually enrolled, creating a first-year class of 7,290 students. The class is more than 400 students — or 6 percent — larger than last year’s class.

Total undergraduate enrollment increased by 3 percent over last fall, from 31,329 to 32,282 students. In-state students account for 52 percent of the overall undergraduate student body. Graduate and professional school enrollment also grew, from 16,578 last fall to 17,996 this year, the highest total in U-M history.

Adele C. Brumfield, vice provost for enrollment management, who stepped into her role this summer, said the university remains a top collegiate destination for first-year and transfer students from Michigan, the nation and the world. 

Brumfield credited much of the success to the versatility of an enrollment management office that has adapted to the evolving needs of students during the pandemic. With travel and in-person recruitment events limited by the pandemic, the undergraduate admissions teams hosted more than 1,000 virtual events for prospective and admitted students.

“Students responded to the virtual recruitment experiences, which showcased the benefits of a U-M education and helped students imagine themselves as part of our community,” Brumfield said. “From what I have learned, collaboration increased and partnerships were strengthened over the past year as the campus united to enroll the fall class of 2021.”

Brumfield also attributed the success to early messaging last winter that most classes would be taught in person this fall.

The school also experienced a higher-than-expected admissions yield, a term used to describe the number of students who choose to enroll at U-M after being admitted.

Greater diversity among first-year, transfer students

This fall’s first-year class is one of the most diverse in years, with 37 percent identifying as students of color, up from 34 percent last year. The growth is due in large part to increases in Latinx and Black student enrollment.

The number of Latinx first-year students grew from 433 last year to 640 this fall, a 48 percent increase. The number of Black students increased by 32 percent over last year, from 305 to 404. Students who identify as more than one ethnicity also enrolled in greater numbers.

The percentage of first-year students receiving Pell grants, a common marker of socioeconomic diversity, climbed from 16 to 17 percent.

“The mission of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions speaks to the importance of enrolling a diverse group of students,” said Erica Sanders, director of undergraduate admissions. “While we continue to strive for improvement, our greater diversity this year is promising and underscores the value of offering a wide range of programs specifically geared toward recruiting and enrolling a diverse campus community.”

The university welcomed 3,639 first-year students from the state of Michigan — a 3 percent increase over last year — accounting for 50 percent of the class. Another 45 percent of new first-year students are domestic out-of-state students, and the remaining 5 percent are international students.

The university also saw an 8 percent increase in transfer students this fall, with 1,407 enrolling. Transfer-student enrollment by students of color is up 55 percent over the past five years.

“Our transfer students with experience from other two- and four-year institutions bring unique perspectives that add value to the university,” Brumfield said. “Transfer students enrich the fabric of our campus.”

New first-year and transfer students represent 77 of Michigan’s 83 counties, all 50 states, five U.S. territories and more than 70 countries across six continents.

Generous financial aid contributes to strong enrollment

Enrollment leaders pointed to the university’s substantial financial aid awards as a catalyst for boosting enrollment.

The university budget approved this summer includes a 6.4 percent increase in financial aid. The additional $15.5 million completely offset a 1.4 percent tuition increase for most in-state students with financial need. More than 9,000 in-state undergraduates receive institutional grant aid, including more than a quarter who attend tuition-free.

The university’s financial support for students grew during the pandemic, with U-M providing $8.6 million in institutional emergency relief funds to nearly 5,000 students. The financial aid office also has facilitated the process for connecting U-M students with more than $48 million from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

With $256.9 million in available financial aid for undergraduates, U-M provides the second-largest average amount in institutional grant and scholarship aid for first-year students among the leading public research universities that are members of the Association of American Universities.

Brumfield said helping students identify financial aid and scholarship dollars is critical when enrolling each new class.

“The university is committed to providing generous financial resources, which allows more students to choose U-M and thrive once they arrive here,” Brumfield said. “With the admissions season for fall 2022 in full swing, we’re looking to the future and recruiting the next talented and diverse class of Wolverines.”


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