As GVSU builds to accommodate rapid enrollment growth, its impact on Allendale Township is more tangible than ever before
In 1970, according to U.S. Census data, the entire population of Allendale Township was less than the number of first-time-in-any-college students entering Grand Valley State University fall 2012 – the 4,005 new freshmen would have cast a marginal shadow over the 3,554 total Allendale Township residents of our yesteryear.
One decade later, Allendale Township’s total population spiked 71.07 percent to 6,080, and continued the trend for the next decade, the most recent U.S. Census data for 2012 reporting a 58.78 percent increase in township residents from 2000-2010 – 20,708 people now living, working and (most forcefully) attending college in the area – and still less than the university’s record fall headcount, when 24,654 graduate and undergraduate students signed on this past fall.
Enrollment climbed steadily at GVSU over the last decade or so, too. In fact, the 54 percent increase in enrollment from 2000-2012 crowns the university first in enrollment growth out of all 15 of Michigan’s public universities.
Now, couple that with the 122 square-feet that has GVSU second to last in per-student building space on those rankings, and it’s obvious why GVSU seems to be scooping up Allendale Township real estate faster than the one guy without cholera during 1800s Westward Expansion.
On the whole, the introduction of GVSU to the Allendale community probably has done more good than bad – a resurgence of commerce along the main roads, repopulation of young people who become invested in the community in a way that might prompt them to stay in the area post-graduation, as well as some really fantastic partnerships with university programs like the College of Education, who work with Allendale Public Schools as a built-in part of their curriculum.
However, upon the announcement of yet another handful of million dollar, auxiliary-funded large scale construction projects scheduled for the next five or so years, we could help but tip our hats to the residents of Allendale Township, who are struggling to maintain the quiet charm that led them this far away from civilization in the first place.
In the Allendale Township 2015 Strategic Plan, posted on the township’s website, “dominance by GVSU” is listed under major development liabilities. 38 percent of residents who responded to a public survey in 2011 expressed the opinion that the most pressing issue facing Allendale Township, was the “impact of GVSU” on the community, and 47.7 percent were more specifically concerned about the integration and inclusion of college students in the community.
So, as GVSU continues to move forward with its 360-expansion of academia, we here at the Lanthorn can only assume it will do so aware of not only the great future ahead of us, but also the history we leave in our wake.