Western Illinois University said enrollment basically held steady compared to a year ago. The administration hopes it is the start of a turnaround for the university.
The administration reported 7,455 students are enrolled this fall. The figure is a dip of just 35 students from last year, or less than half-a-percent, and comes after 14 years of declines, some of which were sharp.
A closer look reveals a mixed bag regarding this fall’s enrollment. The statistics:
- Total enrollment this year is 7,455. Last year it was 7,490.
- Macomb campus – 6,539 this year, 6,401 last year
- Quad Cities campus – 916 this year, 1,089 last year
- Total student credit hours – 87,263 this year, 90,457 last year
- New students – 2,346 this year, 2,354 last year
- New freshmen – 920 this year, 1,064 last year
- Fulltime freshman retention rate – 71.9% this year, 77% last year
- Transfers – 648 this year, 721 last year
- New graduate students – 778 this year, 569 last year
- New international students – 424 this year, 62 last year
- Total international students – 658 this year, 253 last year
- Undergraduate international students – 117 this year, 59 last year
- Graduate international students – 541 this year, 194 last year
Tri States Public Radio asked whether the administration had any thoughts on why the number of graduate students increased so much. Academic Affairs responded:
“Previous federal immigration guidelines, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, affected international enrollment. An aggressive recruitment push by Global Studies, under the direction of Dr. Randy Glean, helped turn international enrollment around this fall, and graduate programs, under the direction of Dr. Mark Mossman, worked with Global Studies and others to enhance recruiting and enhance both domestic graduate and graduate and undergraduate international enrollments.”
New Person in Charge of Enrollment Management
Dr. Amber Schultz is Western’s Vice President for Enrollment Management. She is new to the position and said she is still studying WIU President Guiyou Huang’s goal of increasing enrollment by 3% each year through 2027.
“I’ve only been here a month. I do see a lot of low-hanging fruit so I’m excited about the spring, the coming fall, and the following fall. And then we’ll just continue re-evaluating every year to determine if that 2027 goal is in fact achievable. But I’m hopeful,” she told TSPR.
When asked what she meant by “low hanging fruit,” Schultz replied, “I think there is a lot of opportunity to continue to put our best foot forward as a campus to really market our strongest features and benefits.” She said WIU could do a better job of bragging about “the high-quality academic experience” it offers.
Schultz comes to Western from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. She said she has worked in higher education enrollment management at a half-dozen institutions over the past 23 years. She said those institutions faced challenges similar to the ones faced by WIU the past few years.
“Similar morale issues on the campus because of declining enrollment and declining budgets and cutting of staff and faculty. So I really have a lot of empathy for what people have gone through here at Western, but I also have a strong track record of helping campuses move past that to accomplish some of our enrollment goals,” Schultz said.
“That’s why I was super excited to come to Western. I’m hoping to have a big, positive impact on the place.”
She said there is fierce competition for students in higher education, and she said the pandemic limited campus visits and college fairs last year. But she believes WIU has “huge potential” to move forward and increase enrollment.
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