DOWAGIAC — At a time when other colleges and universities are seeing declines in enrollment, Southwestern Michigan College appears to be beating the odds and is seeing a small increase in the number of students enrolled.

SMC Vice President of Marketing Mike O’Brien told SMC board members this week that fall enrollment is up 25 students from last fall. He said enrollment last week was at 2,171 students, which is 1.2 percent higher than the fall of 2018.

“We are one of only seven community colleges in Michigan showing an increase,” he said. “Lake Michigan College and Glen Oaks Community College both have seen declines in enrollment.”

“There are tremendous challenges facing colleges and universities with the decline in the number of high school graduates and full employment affecting institutions,” he added. “Eastern Michigan University has 142 people taking early retirement and Marquette University is laying off people. It’s starting to get real for a lot of colleges.”

O’Brien gave some more details about the current student population, noting for example that SMC has seen a 54 student – or 12 percent – increase in the number of recent high school graduates enrolled. In addition, 67 more students in the 18-24 age category are enrolled this fall, for an 11.6 percent increase.

Although some students come to SMC from around the region, and even other parts of the country, many come from the four Cass County school districts of Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg and Marcellus. O’Brien said SMC saw an increase in the numbers from those four districts.

O’Brien said the number of students living in the residence halls has risen by 40 students, to where there is over 93 percent occupancy in the halls. SMC President David Mathews noted that the current year budget is based on having 90 percent occupancy and having no students living there in the summer, though there were students living there this summer.

O’Brien also reported that 554 students are dual enrolled at SMC and area high schools, and that there was a small increase of non-traditional students age 24 and higher enrolled. “We have pretty good numbers across the board thanks to the staff digging in and hustling all year,” he said.

The current freshman class has 591 students. This is one of the largest classes in recent years. The youngest student in the new freshman class is 15 years old while the oldest is 56. Also, 60 percent are women and there are three military veterans.

Students enrolled from 17 Michigan counties, nine Indiana counties and six other states, plus one student is from the nation of Georgia, while another is a dual Japanese-American citizen. “We have a little bigger class this year that is more local and more diverse,” he said.

When asked how people from other parts of the country and even other countries find SMC, O’Brien said many find the college online when they’re looking for a small college in the Midwest that has residence halls.