East Lansing’s population growth: Students or non-students?

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By Christina Strong
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

At a time where cities in Michigan are showing declines in population, East Lansing is experiencing the opposite. The 2010 Census results showed increase of 4.4 percent in the city’s population. That includes student and non-student residents.

According to the 2010 Census, East Lansing had a population of 48,579, an increase of 2,054 from the 2000 Census total of 46,525. East Lansing, unlike other cities in Michigan such as Detroit which saw a decrease in its population from 951,270 in 2000 to 713,777 in 2010, is doing pretty well.

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City Manager Theodore Staton credits the increase to the city’s continued efforts to attract and retain residents through livable neighborhoods and quality services.

Photo of courtesy of cityofeastlansing.com

“We at the city work hard to provide a great quality of life for our residents and together, with our regional partners, we continue to look at ways to sustain quality residential services in future years,” Staton said. “The biggest thing we did was to convince the Census Bureau that they should begin the door-to-door count before students left in the spring semester,” Staton said.

The increase in East Lansing’s population can also be attributed to increased resident participation in the census. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau website, East Lansing’s participation rate in the 2010 Census was 79 percent, up from 73 percent in the 2000 Census.

Citizens say that the city’s increase in population can be attributed to many factors, such as a movement of younger residents to the city.

“There are many possible explanations for the increase in East Lansing’s population. Part of it may be that the economy of the Lansing-East Lansing metropolitan area has done somewhat better than the Michigan economy as a whole. Despite budget cuts, MSU remains strong. Private companies in the area, such as Neogen and Liquid Web, are doing well,” said Charles Ballard, a 19-year resident of East Lansing and economics professor at MSU. “Beyond that, East Lansing may be going through a demographic transition, with some older residents being replaced by younger families with children.”

Photo courtesy of cityofeastlansing.com

Michigan State University students also played a major role in the increased number of residents in East Lansing.

“We’ve always thought in terms of 60% of our population of being on-campus or off-campus students and the non-student population to be 40%” Staton said.

In 2010, Michigan State University began student outreach efforts that included handing out “Be Counted Spartan Flyers,” placing 3,200 table tents in East Lansing restaurants, and working with property managers to make sure they would send out notices for their student tenants either through email or paper form to be aware to fill out the census forms.

Photo courtest of cityofeastlansing.com

“We worked with the city of East Lansing in conjunction with the Lansing Census Bureau. Our goal was to make sure students knew about the census and what the process was,” said Erin Carter, community liaison for MSU.

So how much did MSU students count for East Lansing’s population?

The Census data does not discriminate between East Lansing’s non-student residents and the students who live in East Lansing only to attend Michigan State University.

The total number of MSU students during the 2000 Census count was 43,030, and during the 2010 Census the number had increased to 47,131.

“A larger portion of the East Lansing population is made up of MSU students. I wouldn’t say it was more than 50%,” Carter said.

There is no source that specifically tells the number of East Lansing non-student residents apart from the student residents and according to law students must be counted where they live most of the year.

MSU also added to East Lansing’s population by attracting new students because of its range of programs, academic opportunities and emphasis on diversity, Carter said.

Students at MSU agree.

“I love the campus. I think it’s beautiful. I love the English program I am in,” said Marie Rauschenberger, a senior at MSU.

Other students like Lauren Spain, a junior, said she likes the diversity and atmosphere of MSU’s campus.

With no official way to determine the number of student residents and non-student residents there is no clear way to determine the specific growth in East Lansing’s population.

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