ISU holds its own, but NIU, WIU drop

ISU enrollment was boosted by freshmen and international students, but Northern and Western continued to slide

 ISU enrollment was level from last year, boosted by freshmen and international students. (Flickr/DavidWilson)

ISU enrollment was level from last year, boosted by freshmen and international students. (Flickr/DavidWilson)

By Ted Cox

The state’s oldest public university is holding its own, but other regional universities continue to suffer losses in 10-day enrollment figures this fall.

Illinois State University, which is actually the state’s oldest, founded in 1857, kept its enrollment above 20,000, but lost about 150 from last fall’s total of 20,784 students, according to data reported last week in the Chicago Tribune.

ISU cited a 10 percent increase in freshmen, with 3,689 enrolling in college for the first time. ISU also credited an initiative to increase international students announced in March, with the goal of increasing the international student population from 2 percent to 10 percent within a decade.

ISU in Bloomington-Normal at least recovered its equilibrium, but Northern Illinois and Western Illinois University continued to suffer from the state’s two-year budget impasse, when college funding was severely curtailed if not shut off entirely.

NIU lost about 900 students to 17,169 this fall. According to the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, undergrads declined 5 percent to 12,479, but it also suffered an 8 percent drop in transfer students.

Western Illinois failed to attract 1,000 freshmen to its campuses in Macomb and the Quad Cities, as its overall enrollment dropped almost 10 percent to 8,502.

It’s been a mixed bag as state universities work to recover from the two-year budget stalemate. Southern Illinois University in Carbondale saw its undergrad enrollment drop below 10,000 as the Edwardsville campus surpassed it in overall students.

But Eastern Illinois University in Charleston recorded a 7 percent increase, driven by a 25 percent jump in freshmen.

And the state’s flagship University of Illinois recorded its sixth straight year of record enrollment, driven by total enrollment of 49,339 in Urbana-Champaign — the eighth straight record year — and 31,683 in Chicago, which recorded its fourth straight record year.