BRIEF: SIUE surpasses SIUC in enrollment

SIUE and SIUC enrollment for the last 11 years. Graphic by JoAnn Weaver.

For the first time in the SIU System’s records, SIUE has surpassed SIUC in total enrollment as of the fall semester.

With a total enrollment of 13,281 students at SIUE this semester opposed to SIUC’s 12,817, Edwardsville’s share of enrollment has jumped to 50.88 percent from 48.66 percent last year.

In the last decade, overall enrollment at SIUC has fallen by 7,533 students (37 percent), while enrollment at SIUE has dropped by 655 students.

Data published by the Illinois Board of Higher Education shows overall enrollment in public universities across the state dropped by 8.39 percent from 2008 to 2017. In that time Edwardsville’s enrollment rose 1.43 percent while Carbondale lost 29.60 percent of their student body.

SIUE added 3,634 new students in the fall semester — 1,706 new freshmen, 1,240 transfer students and 688 graduate and professional students.

The mean ACT score of SIUE’s new freshmen is 23.3, the same rate as 2017, and the third highest overall for the university. SIUC’s press release highlighted their rise in incoming freshman ACT scores, which jumped from 23.3 to 23.65.

SIUE’s freshman to sophomore retention rate rose 2.4 percent to 75.4 percent. Carbondale’s rose to 71.08 off of a 3.18 percent increase from their retention rate last year.

SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook said the university’s enrollment strategies, from recruitment in major metropolitan areas to offering in-state tuition rates to students across the country in addition to offering more online class options, and our results show the university is “asking the right questions” around enrollment.

“One of the things that is part of the story of us being down [511] students, is that we graduated about 250 students more than we’re used to doing. And so, it seems like we’re getting better at getting students to graduation,” Pembrook said.

With a higher graduation, the Office of Admissions has to fill more spots for freshmen and transfer students to keep the university’s enrollment numbers rising.

“That makes it a little harder in that we have to have a bigger recruiting class to offset the bigger graduating class, but overall I think that has to be considered a success.”

Members of the Edwardsville community have pointed to SIUE’s path toward overtaking Carbondale’s enrollment numbers to justify their request for a larger portion of the state-allocated funding in recent years.

The campus’s feelings were made explicitly clear in the spring when former SIU System President Randy Dunn, alongside Pembrook and with the support of Board of Trustees Chair Amy Sholar (who is based in the Metro East), brought a reallocation plan that aimed to move $5.125 million of the state-funded system-wide allocation from SIUC to SIUE at the April 23 board meeting.

The plan failed to pass, and in the following week Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, announced a plan to submit legislation that would split the SIU System into two separate organizations. 

Over the summer, documents showed Dunn helped Pembrook with the messaging around Hoffman’s proposed legislation before it was made public.

That revelation prompted two board members, Vice Chair Phil Gilbert and Trustee Sambursky, to try to hold an executive session to remove Dunn from his role as president. 

The meeting was canceled after Sholar’s protests that the executive committee — which consists of only three of the board’s eight voting members — did not have the ability to remove a system president.

In a special meeting in June, the board appointed Duane Stucky, SIU System senior vice president for Financial and Administrative Affairs, to begin the process of finding a contractor Whoever the board decides on will create an allocation formula to determine how the state funding allocation is shared between the two universities. At the same meeting, the board released the documents to the public and failed to pass a motion to remove Dunn.

The documents brought more controversy surrounding Dunn, and at a special board meeting in July, he resigned. Former SIU School of Medicine Dean J. Kevin Dorsey was appointed as interim president at the same meeting.

At the next Board of trustees meeting, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 12-13 at 9 a.m. in the Meridian Ballroom, the board will decide to whom the allocation formula contract will be awarded.

However, even now that SIUE has surpassed SIUC in overall enrollment, some, including University Archives and Special Collections Librarian Steve Kerber, still do not believe the Board of trustees’ formula-based allocation plan will treat SIUE in a way the Edwardsville community sees as fair.

“I think my reaction is that they will remain in denial,” Kerber said. “And my prediction would be that they will say this just proves that we need to keep as much or more of our share in order to keep going. I do not expect them to respond in a rational and responsible way. I hope I’m wrong.”

Duff Wrobbel, department chair of Applied Communication Studies,  said he thought the IBHE would be able to create the formula with less partisan bias and at a cheaper price.

“If we thought that they were independent and non-biased, I think everybody would be more comfortable, but they have shown their hand, as far as I’m concerned, that the ‘Carbondale members’ vote with Carbondale and the ‘Edwardsville members’ vote with Edwardsville, and they outnumber us. So, we just lose,” Wrobbel said.

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