Thursday, September 13, 2018

UIS enrollment drops 7.7 percent compared to last year

Fall semester enrollment at the University of Illinois Springfield fell by 7.7 percent compared to last fall, according to statistics released by the university on Wednesday.

After the first 10 days of classes, the total number of students enrolled in fall classes at UIS stands at 4,575 compared to 4,956 students in fall 2017.

It’s the second year in a row UIS has seen enrollment losses and the lowest the campus’ headcount has been since 2005, when fall enrollment was 4,517.

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said the university was “fully expecting” the drop, given the large graduating class last year and the decline in the international student population, a nationwide trend brought on by prospective students’ safety concerns and uncertainty over visa statuses.

“Of course, we’d love to say that our headcount is higher this year than last year,” Koch said. “But we were expecting this and that’s OK.”

UIS is not alone in losing students. Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois University and both Southern Illinois University campuses also announced enrollment drops. The continued declines illustrate the reputational challenges many of Illinois’ public universities still face as they continue to recover from the two-year state budget impasse, which decimated funding for higher education. 

“Of course, it helps tremendously that we’re a part of the University of Illinois system,” Koch said. “That’s a big part of our ability to continue to press on and position ourselves for growth. So we’re going to continue with the strategy that we’re currently employing because we believe it’s working well. “At the same time, we’d like to build back that international enrollment that we’ve lost,” Koch continued. “We’ve had delegations go to India and China, and we’ll be continuing to do that.”

In the past few years, the university has added new academic programs ranging from a nursing partnership with UIC to degrees in growing fields like exercise science and data analytics.

The university also has made a number of facility improvements to its campus, including the opening of the new student union. Such investments are yielding results, Koch said. Most notably, there’s been a 14 percent increase in freshman enrollment, which jumped from 278 last fall to 316 now.

Of this group, nearly 90 percent were from Illinois. “We have made a commitment to focus, first and foremost, on serving Illinois families,” Koch said. “And I think we see that across the system this year in the success we’ve had. And part of the strategy that we’re using is to continue those efforts to make the University of Illinois experience both affordable and to continue the excellence.”

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on September 12, 2018.

Read the entire article online.