Hope’s largest class is preparing to walk in May, but future enrollment expected to decline
When Hope’s 151st Commencement ceremony takes place on Sunday, May 8, it will set an all-time record for the number of graduates.
Based on the Registar’s Office’s current projections, 858 students will graduate from Hope during the 2015-2016 academic year, making the class of 2016 the largest in the school’s history.
“The number of students graduating this year is significantly higher than any graduating academic year we’ve ever had,” said Stephanie Schultz, Hope’s academic data specialist.
This year’s estimated 858 graduates is significantly larger than the current record holder, the class of 2011, which had 733.
Included in this year’s count are the 120 students who graduated in December 2015, the 649 projected May graduates and the projected 89 July graduates. Students who graduate at any time during the academic year are generally allowed to walk at the May Commencement ceremony.
The large number of graduates is somewhat unsurprising given the record 889 Freshmen who enrolled in the fall of 2012.
If the projections are accurate, the class of 2016 might hold the record for the largest graduating class for the foreseeable future. None of the other classes currently enrolled at Hope are as large as this year’s cohort. Furthermore, Hope’s projection shows enrollment shrinking in coming years.
According to a 2015 report by Herb Dershem, who runs Hope’s Office of Institutional Research, after increasing steadily for years, enrollment is projected to decline slowly over the next decade because there will simply be fewer students graduating from high schools in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
About 87 percent of current Hope student’s come from one of these four states. The declining number of eligible students will force Hope to compete with other midwestern colleges for a shrinking pool of graduates or recruit a greater number of students from outside the region.
The model projects a total enrollment drop of almost 400 students by 2026, meaning this year’s record could be a relatively permanent one.