SIUE’s fall 2019 enrollment is down at a time when some other schools are seeing an increase in student enrollment.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois State University had its largest freshmen class in 33 years, the University of Illinois at Chicago saw a 5.4 percent increase in overall enrollment, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign saw a 4 percent overall increase in enrollment and Eastern Illinois University was up 4 percent overall.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s enrollment dropped 8.75 percent, the University of Illinois at Springfield had a 6.6 percent drop in enrollment and Western Illinois University lost more than 10 percent of their total enrollment — while SIUE is down 1.2 percent overall.
Despite the slight dip in enrollment at SIUE, some programs are seeing increases. Most notably, the school’s graduate student population saw a 40 percent increase from fall 2018.
Due to this, Chancellor Randy Pembrook disagreed with the notion that SIUE might be falling behind in enrollment compared to other in-state public universities.
“I think we saw significant growth in the graduate population … I think our international students were up significantly, with the largest group of new international students that we’ve had in a decade,” Pembrook said.
Director of Undergraduate Admissions Todd Burrell said SIUE has relatively maintained its enrollment over the past few years, and credited new programs with that success.
“[It’s] these new programs that have really helped us to do that. The RN to BS program in the School of Nursing has some record enrollment — they’ve really done some outreach to the community and said ‘what can we do to service you,’” Burrell said. “There was a need and the school fulfilled it. That has really helped us out in our enrollment … It’s not foregoing a typical freshman [or] transfer, but recognizing that that marketplace is more competitive [and] will be challenging.”
Director of Marketing and Communications Doug McIlhagga said the university is still paying attention to other state universities’ enrollment trends.
“There’s always a concern because you have budgets you’re trying to meet, and you do that by having students on campus. The fact that we prefer to be around 14,000 [students], I don’t think, is a mystery or a surprise to anyone,” McIlhagga said.
Going forward, Pembrook said the university might look to increase scholarship funding to increase freshman enrollment, specifically the Aim High program, which is a scholarship base specifically designed to keep Illinois high school graduates in-state.
“I think we may in the future try to be as aggressive in the future with the Aim High program. We were relatively conservative in terms of the way that we approach that scholarship area for the fall of ,” Pembrook said.
Burrell said SIUE is competing against schools that have been around longer and may be able to spend more on incoming students, but he was happy with SIUE’s enrollment this year.
“I’m thrilled that we have 1,700 [freshmen] students because there’s 1,700 students on our campus getting a great education. Is the number where I want it to be? No, I would’ve loved to see a few more, based upon the work we’ve done with them,” Burell said. “But in the end, the decisions that the student makes, they make for their best interest, and I don’t think it’s anything SIUE didn’t do.”