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Retooling schooling: Colleges add lures as they fish a smaller student pool

February 3, 2013

Higher education institutions always are under pressure to attract students. For Michigan schools, the K-12 enrollment count has fallen 11 percent since 2002, reducing the pool of students from which colleges and universities traditionally draw their enrollees. The need for education isn't slowing down, so schools can't either, said Ahmad Ezzeddine, vice president of educational outreach and international programs at Wayne State University. "We know the number of high school graduates is declining because of population trends. It's something we're certainly cognizant of, (but) we don't want to focus just on the decline. We still have a very large part of the population that still needs advanced degrees" as well as people who are changing careers or trying to meet new education requirements for their jobs. Engineers are in high demand nationally, so Wayne State has started working more closely with businesses such as Quicken Loans to fill gaps and is training 260 students in advanced energy storage through a Department of Labor grant, he said. To address a growing shortage of people who know how to work on mainframes, Compuware last year sent employees to train 60 WSU computer science students in mainframe software development. Wayne State, like many state universities, has stepped up relations with community colleges to make up the difference in the decline in K-12 enrollment. Wayne State has new "reverse transfer" agreements with Henry Ford Community College, Macomb Community College and Oakland Community College, and is in talks with several more, Ezzeddine said.