The university’s official 10-day count showed an enrollment of 20,130 students. That is a decline of about 2.3 percent, the smallest dip in enrollment since 2010.
“We are not where we want to be, but there are encouraging signs of progress,” NIU President Doug Baker said.
One of the most positive signs was continued improvement in retention of students.
The one-year retention rate for freshmen improved by one percentage point to 72 percent, which built upon last year’s leap of 5 percent in that category. In addition, the two-year retention rate for the fall 2013 freshmen class also increased by 5 percent, a substantial improvement over the fall 2011 and fall 2012 new freshmen numbers. Both the one-and two-year retention rates represent four-year highs.
“We have invested a lot of effort into improving every aspect of the student experience and it is paying off,” Baker said.
The university’s efforts to attract higher achieving students also paid dividends. All of the key quality indicators – class rank, grade point average and composite ACT score showed improvement. With that increase in high-achieving students came significant growth in the university’s honors program, where enrollment surged by nearly 100 students, an increase of 31 percent.
“All of those things are very positive signs,” Baker said. “It demonstrates that we are gaining traction in the marketplace. High-achieving students are recognizing that NIU provides a high quality academic experience. Those students are more likely to thrive in their studies, persist to graduation, and help us draw more high achievers. Success breeds success.”
The 321 undergraduate international students on campus this fall represents a 48 percent increase from two years ago (up 23.5 percent from last year) while the number of international graduate students has climbed by 43 percent over that period (up 11 percent from last year). As a result, the current international student enrollment of 1,211 represents an all-time high.
“Attracting more international students to campus is a point of emphasis,” Baker said. “Bringing students from around the world to our campus not only enhances our enrollment, it also creates a richer, more diverse learning environment. I look forward to this trend continuing for some time.”
Changes in demographics have reduced the number of high school students statewide, making competition to recruit college-bound much steeper. At the same time, tuition increases in Illinois have made out-of-state schools more attractive to some students. NIU has held the line on the total cost of attendance (tuition, room and board) flat for the last two years and intends to do so for the foreseeable future, Baker said.
He is hopeful the many steps taken by NIU will have a positive effect on enrollments.
“We have a new director of admissions, and over the past year, we have implanted an almost complete overhaul in the way that we market ourselves to students. We are doing a better job of making potential Huskies aware of the opportunities that await them here,” Baker said. “The better they get to know us, the more they will want to start their path to success at NIU.”
Per the 10-day count numbers, the total undergraduate enrollment for the university this semester is 15,027.(down 2.6 percent). The graduate enrollment is 4,850 (down 1 percent) and the law school enrollment is 253 (down 8.3 percent).