BIG RAPIDS -- Ferris State University's student enrollment numbers have decreased for the fourth year in a row.

According to a recent enrollment report from the Michigan Association of State Universities, Ferris' enrollment dropped from 13,250 for the 2018 fall semester to 12,482 for the 2019 fall semester. This brings the student enrollment rate down 5.87% in the course of a year.

While Ferris has seen a decrease in student numbers, many other schools around the state are facing the same issue, including Central Michigan University, which saw a 10.48% decrease, and Lake Superior State University, which had a 8.15% student decline from 2018 to 2019.

FSU Dean of Enrollment Services Kristen Salomonson said these decreases could be because of a decline in high school graduates, both locally as well as statewide.

"The most significant factor is the demographic landscape in our state and region," she said. "Projections until 2032 indicate that Michigan will drop to 88,000 high school graduates. Between 2013 to 2025, we are predicted to have 14,000 fewer high school graduates."

Additionally, she said it is likely more individuals are stepping into the workforce following high school rather than pursuing a college degree.

"Particularly for our statewide and online enrollments, the positive economic and unemployment trends traditionally mean fewer people opt to pursue education and instead participate more actively in the labor market," Salomonson said. "When a greater number of good jobs are available, enrollment at colleges and universities tend to decline."

Though Ferris' total student enrollment is down, there has been a slight increase in enrollment of first-term freshmen over the past several years, from 1,829 in 2017 to 1,892 in 2019.

Salomonson said this could have to do with Ferris' more recent test-optional enrollment plan, which was created to help improve enrollment numbers while also give students with poor SAT/ACT scores a second chance at getting into a university.

"Ferris recognizes that published research increasingly suggests that standardized testing provides an incomplete picture of some applicants' ability to succeed in a college environment," she said about the program. "There are many students who feel that their standardized test scores do not reflect their abilities. They may have done extremely well in high school, but the results of a test taken on a single day can have a negative impact."

The enrollment initiative was put in place for the 2019-20 academic year, and resulted in the enrollment of 58 students in the fall.

While this is one way Ferris has been combating the decline in enrollment, Salomonson said Ferris is attempting to enhance enrollment rates through a variety of other initiatives, including better methods of high school student outreach, improved university branding, the creation of an internationalization plan to promote international enrollment and more.

"Consistent with our strategic plan, our goal is to increase our total enrollment and attract as many qualified students as we can to Ferris," she said.

While most state universities saw a decline in enrollment, the University of Michigan saw a 2.94% increase and Northern Michigan University saw a 1.8% increase from 2018-19.