NIU sees strong gain in international students, retention uptick

Huskie Family Welcome 2014
New students get revved up during the Huskie Family Welcome on Friday, Aug. 22

Northern Illinois University announced a gain of nearly 30 percent among international students that—with an uptick in student retention—limited the university’s enrollment decline to its smallest in five years.

According to the Department of Institutional Research, NIU’s 10-day total headcount enrollment of 20,611 includes a 28.7 percent increase in international students, from 847 last fall to 1,090 in 2014. The increase included 200 international students enrolled in graduate school. The retention rate for the 2013 new freshman cohort also rose from 66 percent last year to 71 percent, the highest in three years.

“It is gratifying to see the uptick in our retention of students from their first-to-second years, especially given the attention and effort we have put towards improving retention over the course of the last year,” says NIU President Doug Baker. “Both recruitment and retention will continue to be priorities, and international programs will be an important component of our enrollment strategy.”

The university’s total enrollment is 2.49 percent less than the 21,138 that attended in fall 2013. New freshmen numbers fell 5.5 percent to 2,542 after two straight years of increases. New transfer students numbered 1,840, a drop of 2.2 percent from a year ago.

NIU President Doug Baker talks to new transfer students Alexis Massman and Lisa Matson
NIU President Doug Baker talks to new transfer students Alexis Massman and Lisa Matson

Grayslake native Lisa Matson is a new transfer from College of Lake County studying environmental geoscience. She says NIU was a perfect fit for her.

“I love it here. I really, really enjoy it…and I love all of my classes,” she explains, noting the ease of transferring her credits to NIU. “I recommend people at CLC transfer to NIU. Everyone was really helpful, and the transfer process was really easy.”

“Transferring to NIU…was so much easier than any other place I looked into transferring to,” adds engineering student Alexis Massman, a CLC transfer from Lake Villa. “I love all the professors; they’ve been so helpful.”

University officials are optimistic about the opportunities that exist in student recruitment, especially in the area of transfer students, where NIU has historically been a top destination. NIU has partnered with six community colleges, including CLC, for unique reverse articulation agreements that allow NIU credits to be counted towards completion of a two-year degree. Further agreements will be announced in the coming months. Searches are also underway for an assistant vice president for enrollment management as well as a director of Admissions.

“Obviously, there is more work to do on the recruitment side in terms of new freshmen and transfers,” Baker continues. “We will be able to do more of a ‘deep dive’ into the data when it becomes available. This information will inform our strategy moving forward.”

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