Western Michigan University President Edward Montgomery says his first 14 months on the job has been hectic, but “a great hectic.”
Montgomery became Western’s ninth president on August 1, 2017. He says two things that stand out to him are the full range of high quality programs at the university, and the people who go “above and beyond” to work with students. Montgomery spoke with WMUK’s Gordon Evans.
Western’s enrollment is down 1.5% this fall, compared to last year. Montgomery says all schools in Michigan are facing challenges in enrollment because of demographics – a drop in the number of 18 years old in Michigan and a percentage drop in those going to college. Montgomery says that means seeking more students from out of state, although he says it’s important to keep working on attracting students from Michigan to WMU. Montgomery says there is some good news in the enrollment numbers, including an increase in international students. He says that’s rare for universities right now.
A new study estimates that Western has an annual economic impact of $1.6-billion a year on the region’s economy. Montgomery, an economist, says the study looks at direct university spending and money spent by students and their families. Then it examines ripple effects from how that money is spent in the community. Montgomery says the study shows that the university provides an economic benefit well beyond the $100-million investment it receives from the state.
Student Housing and Other Development
A new residence facility will be built where the Elmwood Apartments were taken down near Stadium Drive. Montgomery says they will be apartment style units. He says a new student center will open in 2021 to replace the Bernhard Center.
Montgomery says higher education faces a challenge to remain accessible for students of “ordinary means.” Western has launched “student completion grants.” They are designed to help those close to graduation who need financial help. Montgomery says Kalamazoo Public School graduates are blessed with the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship, which covers tuition and fees. But Montgomery says there are other expenses and some students need help paying for them.