The chairman of Eastern Michigan University’s board of regents said that Tuesday marked some of the most encouraging news he had heard since he joined the board five years ago.
“We’ve worked very hard to establish relevance,” Chairman Roy Wilbanks said, referring to administration at EMU. “I think we’re starting to see the fruits of our labor.”
Wilbanks started his Tuesday at EMU at the ribbon cutting for the new public safety facility, a $3.9 million renovation project that has turned the Hoyt Conference Center into a high-tech police headquarters.
Before the ribbon was cut, EMU Vice President of Communications Walter Kraft, standing at a podium in front of the facility, announced that the university had released its annual crime statistics and that breaking and entering crimes were down 61 percent last year.
“We’re really pleased with the numbers, especially the decrease in B and Es,” said Greg O’Dell, EMU’s chief of police.
The number of burglaries on campus dropped from 127 in 2007 to 47 in 2008.
O’Dell said lowering the number of breaking and entering crimes was one of the Department of Public Safety’s main priorities last year. He attributed the sharp decline to DPS’s collaboration with Housing with the Gotcha Program, which involves officers and resident assistants checking dorms for unlocked doors.
“People aren’t kicking down doors,” O’Dell said. “It’s almost always the case that a door has been simply left unlocked.”
He said DPS is continuing the program with the hope of educating students and lowering the number of unlocked doors in dorms.
The university saw a decrease or no change in all but one of the 13 crime categories, O’Dell said. The only increase came in the number of robberies, which jumped from one in 2007 to four in 2008.
EMU welcomes more than 900 new students
It was also announced Tuesday that, after a seven-year decline, EMU’s enrollment rose 4.26 percent this semester compared to last fall.
Last fall there were 21,926 enrolled; this fall, there are 22,859. If you are keeping score, that is an increase of 933 students.
EMU’s vice president of students affairs and enrollment management, Bernice Lindke, made a presentation at Tuesday’s meeting declaring not only that the headcount was up but also that the average grade point average of incoming freshmen jumped to 3.08, up from 3.04 last year.
Lindke said 55 percent of incoming freshmen had high school GPAs above 3.0, a 50 percent increase from 2008.
Also, she said the number of graduate students enrolled hit a 20-year high, and that there are more transfer students taking classes this year than in any year since 1992.
“We know that cost is a factor,” said Lindke, citing EMU’s low tuition increase as a possible reason for the enrollment increase. “And we know that unemployment is a factor.”
She said in tough economic times it’s not uncommon to see undergraduates returning to school to defer student loans and become more competitive in a shrinking job market.
“I think we are seeing the first signs of Eastern Michigan’s recovery,” Wilbanks said after Lindke’s presentation.