Northern Illinois University new freshmen up nearly three percent

Students on campusNorthern Illinois University announced its fall 2012 new freshman enrollment is up 2.9 percent to 2,664 following the first 10 days of classes, according to NIU’s Office of Institutional Research.

The strength of the university’s incoming freshman class is reflected not only in its numbers, but also grade point average and class rank. The percentage of students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school class rose from 8.9 percent to 11.1 percent. Those graduating in the 25th percentile represent 32.7 percent of the freshman class compared to 29.4 percent a year ago. The mean GPA of the fall 2012 freshman class is 3.11, up from 3.06 in 2011.

NIU Honors students relax around the piano.
NIU Honors students relax around the piano.

The University Honors Program is the beneficiary of the quality freshman intake with 226 new freshmen, its largest incoming class since 1987. Since fall 2010, the size of the program has grown from 861 students to 1,083 students, a 25.7 percent increase, and the number of minority students has more than doubled (107 percent) from 122 students to 253 students. Since fall 2011, NIU Honors numbers have increased 10 percent from 984 to 1,083, and the number of minority students has expanded from 163 to 253, a 55.2 percent increase.

“Students are beginning to see all the great things happening at NIU,” said NIU President John Peters. “That’s reflected in our increase in freshman enrollment and the quality of students we’re attracting.  But there is still much work to do.”

The university’s total enrollment of 21,869 is 4.9 percent less than the 22,990 attending in fall 2011. The overall decrease can be attributed to several factors: a large graduating class in spring 2012; steadily declining freshman enrollments in previous years; a decline in new transfers this year, which is not uncommon among NIU’s peers across the Midwest but is a traditional strength of NIU; and student retention.

NIU awarded 5,734 degrees in 2011-2012, including 3,972 bachelor’s degrees. This largely represents the 2008 freshman cohort.

New transfer admissions number 1,913 this semester, which is 10.4 percent off last year’s pace.

“Because of the smaller incoming classes we’ve had in recent years, this downward trend in overall enrollment may continue in the short term even if new freshman numbers rise,” Peters continued. “We have high aspirations and expectations at NIU, and we need to take a three-pronged approach, building on this year’s freshman recruiting success, doubling down on attracting new transfer students and delivering all students the learning environment and support mechanisms needed to succeed academically.”

Undergraduate enrollment figures total 16,522 while those enrolled in graduate school number 4,984. The College of Law increased its enrollment by 4.4 percent to 333 students.

Students outside the new residence hallColleges seeing the highest freshman undergraduate enrollment growth this fall are the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and the College of Education at 11 and eight percent, respectively. The College of Business increased its year-over-year freshman headcount by six percent.

“There is still much to do as we move forward with our Vision 2020 priorities,” Peters added. “Merit scholarships are making a difference, as we have seen, and more renovations on campus are underway. We need to continue on this path to becoming the most student-centered public research university in the Midwest while making education more accessible to those in our service region.”

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