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WIU Interim President Talks about Enrollment & the Pandemic


Western Illinois University's interim president said he is "extremely happy" with this fall's enrollment data even though overall enrollment decreased.

“We have phenomenal news out of the enrollment picture,” Dr. Martin Abraham said during an interview with Tri States Public Radio.

“We’re thrilled to see that it looks like we may have turned the corner.”

Abraham said he’s excited because new student enrollment rose for the first time in ten years. He said the numbers are up for new freshmen (an 18.9% increase compared to last year), new transfer students (up 9.2%), and new graduate students (up 10.3%).

This fall’s overall enrollment is 7,490 compared to 7,624 a year ago. Abraham said the 1.8% decrease is less than he expected given what happened six months ago. 

“The pandemic hits and our next presumption is students aren’t going to come, they’re going to take a gap year. You heard all sorts of horrific projections of what enrollments were going to look like at universities,” he said.

Abraham said international student enrollment was one area affected by the pandemic. He believes the overall enrollment data would be better if not for the public health crisis.

Abraham said enrollment management staff members have worked “above and beyond” to bring in students, and he said faculty, staff, students, and alumni have all been involved in the effort. 

He also said WIU needs to update its strategic plan, which he said will help the university determine its ideal enrollment.

Click on the Part 1 audio link to hear more from Abraham on this fall’s enrollment.

Click on the Part 2 audio link to listen to our conversation about the pandemic.

Part 2

WIU and the Pandemic

Western is holding a mix of in-person and online classes this fall. The university’s plan is to keep students on campus until Thanksgiving break.

Abraham said he feels good about Western’s chances of achieving that goal.

“Going into the semester, we didn’t know what we would have. We didn’t know what the numbers would start to look like as we did testing,” he said.

“What we know today, three weeks into this, is that a lot of the plans that we put in place worked much like we expected them to. The things that didn’t work the way we hoped they would, we’ve been able to adjust.”

Abraham said most students and staff are complying with CDC protocols by masking up, practicing social distancing, and getting tested for COVID-19.

Abraham said the university is adding staff to help employees who have been working around the clock to ensure procedures are followed amid the pandemic. He said WIU is placing an added emphasis on cleaning and sanitizing common spaces.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.