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Enrollment Off Slightly as Expected; Aggressive Recruitment, Marketing Planned

Sep-05-2012

Enrollments took a dip as expected this year at Eastern Illinois University, but the institution has already launched a new enrollment management effort designed to reverse the trend.

 “There were a number of factors that combined to hurt our enrollments this year,” said Blair Lord, provost and vice president for academic affairs.  “And, while it will take a little while to reverse the trends, we are confident that we’re moving in the right direction.”

 Chief among the problems facing EIU, according to Lord, was a tough economy coupled with a decrease in state financial aid.

While EIU has little control over what happens outside its campus, university officials are optimistic that steps they are taking internally will help “reverse the momentum and put us back on a positive trend,” he said.

 “We are in the process of creating a Strategic Enrollment Management plan which will help us identify, market to and recruit the student body best matched to EIU.

“In the coming year, you will see a much more aggressive marketing and recruiting effort -- an effort which will involve everyone in the university.  We know that Eastern is a special place, but we need to work much harder to tell our story and bring potential students to Charleston.”

Current enrollment numbers reflect a Fall 2012 on-campus enrollment of 9,255 and an off-campus count of 1,162 for a total of 10,417.  A year ago, the number of students taking on- and off-campus classes was 10,036 and 1,142, respectively, for a total enrollment of 11,178.

A breakdown of Eastern’s 8,975 undergraduate students (down from 9,657 last year) is as follows (with Fall 2011 figures in parentheses):  freshmen, 1,941 (2,114); sophomores, 1,694 (1,814); juniors, 2,229 (2,431); and seniors, 3,111 (3,298).  The number of new transfer students dropped from 1,150 in Fall 2011 to 1,029.

Graduate students number 1,442, a decrease from last year’s 1,521.  Female students again outnumber male students – 6,199 to 4,218.

EIU officials report that minority student enrollment continues to climb, with minority students now making up 21.71 percent of total enrollment, up from 19.05 percent in 2011.

Numbers reflect the following:  black, 1,580; Hispanic, 399; Asian, 94; American Indian/Alaskan Native, 27; Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 9; and those listing two or more races, 153.

In addition, the number of international students attending the university stands at 152, a slight increase from 149 in Fall 2011.

According to Lord, overall enrollment in Illinois colleges and universities has declined as families struggle to pay for their children’s education.  College costs have continued to increase, even as Illinois families’ income decreases.  Tuition increased 21 percent at community colleges and 57 percent at universities from FY02 to FY11.  During the same time, family income decreased by 15 percent.

Need-based aid has decreased, as well.  Illinois Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) grants, in particular, decreased by 21 percent since FY02.  As the state’s financial situation continues to worsen, MAP funds lower percentages of students’ costs, and more students are applying for aid than the program can serve.  In 2011, thousands of eligible students did not receive aid because unprecedented demand required the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to -- once again -- suspend the program early.

Furthermore, the largest enrollment decreases have been at the community college level, significant to EIU since 40 percent of its students are transfer students.

‘In addition,” Lord added, “we are facing a five-year period in which there are fewer high school graduates.  That is a national trend and it is the first time that has happened in the nation's history.

“This means we are facing the toughest competition for students in our history.  There are 181 colleges and universities in Illinois alone and we're all competing for a smaller pool of potential students.”

According to Lord, EIU has a systematic plan in place to increase enrollment in Fall 2013.  Its linchpins, he said, “are strategic marketing, recruiting and financial aid,” and it’s based on “university-wide collaboration and participation, the effective use of cutting-edge technology, and assessment and accountability.

“In the end, we will benefit from passing through this difficult period with better recruiting processes and -- with a little time -- growing enrollments,” he added.