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Fall figures show positive trends despite overall enrollment decline

September 12, 2018

The fall 10-day count showed that NIU saw small increases in the number of new freshmen, new master’s degree students and new doctoral students, all of which grew slightly from last year. The number of new students enrolling in online classes and at off-campus locations also increased.

“We’re pleased to add to the Huskie community and see stable results in multiple enrollment categories,” said Sol Jensen, vice president for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications who joined NIU in June 2017. “We’re right where we anticipated to be in our efforts to build a multi-year plan to grow sustainable awareness and interest in NIU and to attract diverse and strong student talent from across the nation.”

Programs growing this fall included Management, Operations Management and Information Systems, Computer Science, Elementary Education, Electrical Engineering, Human Development & Family Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Music, Theatre and Public Health.

Campus diversity also improved. Among new freshmen, the numbers increased for African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic students. For new transfers, the numbers increased for African-American and Hispanic students.

“We are committed to inclusive excellence and proud to welcome a diverse student body that represents our region and state,” said Acting President Lisa Freeman. “We firmly believe that a thriving culture of innovation and creativity is best driven by a community of diverse people, beliefs and talents, and we’re actively recruiting students, faculty and staff to strengthen our university.”

While the one-year retention rate for freshmen remained at 73 percent, and the one-year retention rate for transfer students increased to 83 percent, the total headcount on campus decreased by 873 students. The university’s official fall enrollment is 17,169, a decline of 4.8 percent compared to last fall. As has been the case in recent years, much of the decline was due to an incoming class that does not offset the losses created by a large graduating class. That trend is expected to continue through next fall. The university also saw a decline of 8 percent overall in new transfer students.

Efforts are already underway to address both of those issues. For transfer students, the university is working to make a bachelor’s degree a more attainable goal by increasing the availability of scholarships and financial aid.  “With opportunities like the state’s AIM HIGH grant program and the NIU Foundation’s robust scholarship campaign, NIU intends to deploy more merit and need-based aid to transfer students in the future,” said Freeman.

Recruiting for all students is undergoing an overhaul, Jensen said. Under new leadership, the NIU admissions team is working to revitalize marketing materials and improve the use of technological tools to effectively connect with potential students. While not fully implemented in time to influence this year’s numbers, strategies such as eliminating out-of-state tuition are also part of the long-term plan to increase NIU’s regional and national competitiveness.