August 19, 2020

Wayne State University enrollment up; Black graduation rate soars

The Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, which offers free tuition for graduates of Detroit high schools or residents earning a high school diploma, builds on previous programs to expand opportunities to Detroit youth.

Detroit, Michigan – Officials at Wayne State University announced today that as of Aug. 19, Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment is up 2.3 percent compared to Fall 2019, and despite uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic it is trending toward being the largest freshman class in the school’s 152-year history. In addition, Black undergraduate enrollment for first-time college students at Wayne State is up an astonishing 58.7 percent. Overall Black enrollment is up 3.6 percent over last year.

“These numbers speak to the commitment we have made to making a Wayne State education accessible and affordable to all students, regardless of racial or socio-economic background,” said Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson. “We’re focused on increasing enrollment and the diversity of our student body, through targeted strategic efforts to recruit students of all backgrounds. And it’s working.”

Wayne State also exceeded its strategic plan goal of a six-year graduation rate of 50 percent one year early, and is anticipating it will hit 52 percent by September. The six-year graduation rate for Black students has tripled to 25 percent, from 8 percent in 2011. Wayne State’s progress on boosting degree attainment and improving graduation rates has become a national model.

“I’m especially gratified that these positive enrollment numbers are coming at a time when so much is up in the air because of the pandemic,” Wilson said. “I think our cautious but forward-looking approach to our return to campus has inspired confidence in our students, faculty and staff. Moreover, students and parents continue to recognize the value of a Wayne State education and are determined to see it through to degree completion, even in these uncertain times.”

Wayne State University has a rich tradition of outreach within the Detroit community and a strong partnership with the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD). The Office of Undergraduate Admissions regularly partners with DPSCD to provide valuable college bound activities and enrichment opportunities. Wayne State offers a number of pipeline partnerships with schools throughout the district offering a direct and affordable pathway to higher education.

The Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, which offers free tuition for 2020 graduates of Detroit high schools or Detroit residents earning a high school diploma in 2020, builds on programs such as Detroit Promise, Wayne Access and Warrior Way Back to expand opportunities to Detroit youth. There are currently 584 registered students in the Heart of Detroit program.  

“I’ve been astounded by recent reports in the media that our Black graduation rates are down,” said Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Dawn Medley. “By any reasonable measure, that is simply untrue. President Wilson has let my team know in no uncertain terms that Black graduation rates and minority enrollment increases are cornerstone virtues of this university and he has supported our programmatic efforts to increase both numbers every step of the way.”

The student success milestones build upon significant progress in recent years that resulted in the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) naming Wayne State University the winner of its 2018 Project Degree Completion Award that identifies and honors institutions using innovative strategies or programs to increase retention and graduation outcomes and decrease achievement gaps.

“We’re pleased with the preliminary numbers, but we are in no way satisfied,” Wilson said. “There is a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I’m confident we can keep the trajectory heading on its current upward track. In fact, I will settle for nothing less.”


Matt Lockwood
Phone: 248-622-8060

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