Enrollment projection trends mean less UCS students, nearly $8 million in reduced funding over the next 5 years

An aging population and falling birth rates are affecting student enrollment throughout Michigan, and the issue will impact Utica Community Schools with a future loss of students and an estimated $7.8 million in reduced funding in the next five years, according to a recent independent enrollment study. 

The study, presented to the Board of Education on February 10, 2020 by Plante Moran Cresa, projected that total UCS enrollment – which is the basis for funding in Michigan - will decline by 950 students over the next five years. 

Total UCS enrollment, including adult education students, is projected to decline from the current 26,599 students to 25,649.  K-12 enrollment in UCS is projected to fall under 25,000 students by 2022, which impacts how effectively school facilities are being used, according to the study.  

 “This is a serious issue facing nearly every Michigan district,” said Paul Wills, a partner with Plante Moran Cresa. “This is also an issue that you must continue to confront. The population changes throughout this region have serious implications for you in terms of funding and the efficient use of your facilities.”
The projections follow a loss of 1,895 students and $15.6 million in funding since 2013, based on current revenue levels. 

Plante Moran Cresa annually develops enrollment projections using demographic information, community trends, historical enrollment and the number of live births. 

Wills said that the number of children being born in Macomb County experienced an 11 percent decline since its 20-year high of 10,332 in 2000. In 2018, there were 9,189 births in Macomb County. 

Utica Community Schools enrolls one of every five children born in Macomb County - a percentage that has increased as UCS “is providing great educational opportunities for students,” Wills said. The issue facing UCS and Michigan school districts is that the basis for the kindergarten enrollment – the number of births – continues to experience a significant decline. 

In addition, the greatest population growth in Utica Community Schools is for residents who do not have school-aged children, he said. The median age of district residents is growing from 52.2 in 2010 to a projected 54.4 years of age in 2024. 

In making the report, Wills noted findings from a recent Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) study:

•   School-age population in southeast Michigan has seen a 15 percent decline between 2000 and 2015. That number is forecasted to drop another 10 percent by 2025.
•  This decline has impacted current elementary and junior high populations. In the future, this enrollment decline will reach high schools and post-secondary education institutions. 
•By 2026, southeast Michigan residents age 65 or older will outnumber children in the region. 

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 “This is a difficult reality we face in Michigan, but it is a critical one that we must address for the long-term fiscal health and stability of our district,” Board of Education President Dr. Robert Ross said. “We must effectively right-size our facilities so we can maximize the resources that go directly to classrooms. We also must continue to be good stewards of our taxpayers’ money by recognizing that projected enrollment decreases will lead to significant funding losses in the future.”

The validity of the Plante Moran Cresa enrollment projections is recognized by the Michigan Department of Treasury. The firm’s report from last year showed their projection for UCS had a 99.7 percent accuracy rate.