According to ESPN, Undergraduate applications to Michigan State University fell by 8.3 percent over the past year amid the scandal involving former Spartan physician and associate professor Larry Nassar as well as the school’s handling of sexual assault allegations involving athletes.
Applications for the fall of 2018 dropped by about 3,000, to 33,129 while applications rose nationwide and among most of MSU’s peer institutions in the Big Ten Conference.
The Indianapolis Star reported applications to the university had increased steadily for over seven years in an article in 2016, but applications for fall 2017 showed a 3.6 percent decline.
During the 2017-18 academic year, when Nassar was on trial, attention began to focus on how Michigan State officials had handled the allegations against him. At Nassar’s sentencing hearing in January, many of the 156 women and girls who read victim-impact statements called out MSU officials for not taking more action to stop Nassar.
In January WLNS reported on the forced resignation of then-university president Lou Anna Simon, who is currently on trial for criminal charges of lying to investigators. After the resignation, athletic director Mark Hollis retired just a few hours before ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported about how athletic officials had handled multiple allegations of sexual violence involving student-athletes.
MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant attributed the application declines to demographic shifts in Michigan and the Midwest: a lower number of high school graduating seniors, low birth rates and migration during the last recession, as well as a decline in applications by international students due to changes in federal visa and immigration processes.
Over the same time period, other Big Ten schools on average saw a 4.7 percent increase in applicants, with rival Michigan seeing 9.7 percent more applications. Among the five next-largest public schools in Michigan, two saw applications increase by 19 or more percent; two saw a drop of less than 5 percent; and Eastern Michigan declined 13.2 percent. Penn State was not included in the Outside the Lines analysis for 2018 because a spokesperson said its application number is not yet available.
In a March media release, Michigan State touted its incoming freshman class of 8,442 students for 2018-19 as “the largest and most diverse in the school’s history.” The university admitted a larger percentage of the students who applied to reach the record number, however; for the fall of 2018, the admission percentage was 77.7 percent, up from 65.7 percent in 2016, and is MSU’s highest accepted-student percentage in a decade.
“MSU recognizes that while we have a record-setting class this year, we will need to step up our recruitment efforts in the future to continue welcoming strong class sizes to the university,” Guerrant said.