The 10-day count for the new academic year provided some promising signs.
The best news was that NIU welcomed 1,852 new freshmen to campus for the 2017-18 academic year, an increase of nearly 3 percent over last year. There was also 2 percent growth in enrollment at the College of Law, 1 percent improvement in overall student retention and 20 percent jump in new doctoral students.
This marks the first time in six years that new freshman enrollment at NIU has increased, a significant achievement in light of the difficult recruiting environment in Illinois.
“The number of high school graduates and community college students in our state has been on the decline for several years, and uncertainties created by the two-year budget stalemate has Illinois students choosing out-of-state schools at a record rate,” Vice President for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications Sol Jensen noted. “In fact, we were one of the few public universities in the state to overcome those hurdles this year and make some gains.”
Continuing a trend of improving academic profiles, the incoming class posted the highest mean grade-point average in more than a decade at 3.28. NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman was encouraged by the growth of the freshman class and the increased student retention. “We are excited to see improvement in those areas despite these challenging times,” Freeman said. “It demonstrates a renewed confidence in NIU that is the result of contributions from every corner of the university.”
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Despite those gains, total enrollment on campus declined by 5 percent. As has been the case for the last several years, much of the decline was due to an incoming class that does not offset the losses created by a large graduating class.
“That is a trend that we anticipate will continue for at least another year,” Jensen said. “But we are hopeful that larger incoming classes—paired with our successful retention efforts—will soon turn that around.”
Key to meeting that goal will be an expansion of the more targeted, personalized and focused marketing efforts the university has implemented in the past year to better inform students about all that NIU has to offer, Jensen added.