Enrollment figures indicate large freshman class

Southern Illinois University



Enrollment figures indicate large freshman class

September 03, 2013, Seth Richardson

The 10-day enrollment figures released Tuesday showed a marked improvement in freshman enrollment, despite an overall decline.

Overall enrollment decreased for the ninth straight year, falling from 18,847 to 17,964. This marks one of the lowest enrollments in 40 years.

Chancellor Rita Cheng blamed the enrollment numbers on a small 2010 freshman class and expressed a need to work back up from that low point. Transfer student enrollment has also decreased, something Cheng attributes to rough economic times.

“[The drop] was mostly economy driven,” she said. “Students are staying longer at community colleges, or not going to college because of the cost. They’re coming back, but slowly.”

Despite the drop in overall enrollment, freshman enrollment grew by over 12 percent from 2,286 to 2,571. The freshman class is the largest it has been in 20 years. Cheng attributed this to a complete overhaul of how SIU is being marketed to new students.

“We revamped our branding and marketing materials, expanded the number of students who got those materials in the mail and social media, increased our advertising, increased our presence in cities across the state and the region, expanded our open house and new student orientation and we expanded our scholarships,” Cheng said.

She went on to say that the university had faltered in previous years with new student recruitment.

“We weren’t doing all the things that we needed to do,” she said. “We were late, our materials weren’t as sharp as our competitors and we weren’t sending a strong message about the quality of our faculty and our academic programs. If you don’t do that right, how is a 17-year-old going to know that SIU is a place to consider.”

Cheng also said that the school has greatly expanded the number of high achieving students on campus, leading to a higher retention rate than in previous years.

“Our honors program has tripled in three years,” she said. “That means we will have higher retention numbers because students will not have as much difficulty in their first year because their academic preparation is higher.”

The university also saw an increase in international and online enrollment at a rate of 10.7 and 36 percent, respectively. The College of Engineering and the College of Sciences and Applied Arts also experienced overall growth.