News Local/State

EIU: 14% Drop In Freshmen Enrollment Partly Offset By Other Increases

The Old Main Building at Eastern Illinois University

The Old Main Building on the campus of Eastern Illinois University at Charleston. Travis Stansel / Illinois Public Media

Freshman enrollment this fall at Eastern Illinois University is down by 14 percent from last year — but overall fall enrollment is down by only five percent.

Eastern Illinois reports the drop in freshman enrollment was partly offset by increases in areas like transfer students, international enrollment and a 4% increase in the freshmen retention rate.

In its release of official 10th-day data, EIU administrators say their freshman enrollment for this fall is 634, compared to 739 a year ago. That’s an decrease of 14.21%. Total enrollment at the university in Charleston this fall is 7,030, down 5% from last year’s total fall enrollment of 7,415.

EIU joins other state universities in Illinois reporting fall enrollment declines. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale reported a 19.2% drop in freshman enrollment, and a nearly 9% decline in overall enrollment. Illinois State University in Normal reported a 9.3% drop in freshman enrollment, after three years of record enrollment growth. ISU’s total fall enrollment was down 1.2% from last year.

Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Josh Norman says he was particularly heartened by EIU’s 367% increase in new freshmen honors admissions.

“To have that kind of percentage increase in a category that means you have more quality students, that’s what a guy like me lives for,” said Norman.

Norman says Illinois’ two-year budget impasse was a major cause of EIU’s enrollment declines. He says the passage of a new state budget in July came too late to have much impact on this fall’s enrollment.

But Norman is optimistic about EIU's enrollment prospects for fall of 2018. He expects freshman enrollment to make a recovery next fall, based on early indicators, such as a 328% jump in new freshman admissions, a 123% percent increase in new transfer admissions and an 83% increase in new freshmen applicants.

In addition, Norman says the budget impasse has been a catalyst driving EIU to launch new programs and services and unify its admissions and marketing activities, to promote growth in student recruitment.

“Starting this enrollment cycle with a budget, plus all the structural, marketing and enrollment management changes we’ve been making, I’m confident that next year, our freshmen numbers will be up 20%,” said Norman.