Fall 10-day count offers signs of improvement

The 10-day student census released this week offered signs that the university’s efforts to reverse enrollment decline are already having an impact.

“Less than a year after implementing our Strategic Enrollment Plan, a lot of the work has only just begun, but this 10-day report affirms that our analysis and strategies are succeeding in attracting excellent students from diverse backgrounds to NIU,” said President Dr. Lisa Freeman.

The census showed an overall decline of about 3 percent, with a total enrollment of 16,609, consistent with projections. However, there were many bright spots. The university welcomed 4,791 new students to campus this fall, an increase of more than 2 percent. That number includes:

  • 1,897 new freshmen (up 2 percent)
  • 1,611 new transfer students (up 2 percent)
  • 926 new graduate and professional students (up nearly 9 percent)
  • 119 first-year students at the law school, the most since 2010.

Beyond the number of new students, Dr. Freeman said she was pleased to see the strength of the academic profile of this year’s class. Compared to last year, this year’s freshman class boasts an average high school grade point average of 3.36 (up from 3.31 last year) and the number of students who graduated in the top 10 of their high school class climbed to 14.4 percent (up 2.3 percent). The class is also more diverse, with over half of all new freshman and transfer students coming from traditionally underrepresented groups.

“The excellence and diversity of the Fall 2019 incoming class will strengthen and enrich our learning environment. I am proud of the way that our university community has come together to support the goals of our enrollment management plan, and impressed by the progress to date,” Dr. Freeman said.”

Vice President for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications Sol Jensen also was encouraged.

“I’m happy that NIU has been able to attract more students while also boosting the quality of our freshman class at the same time,” Jensen said. “Talented students from inside and outside of Illinois know that they receive a unique and innovative hands-on learning experience here. NIU provides the excellent and affordable higher education that today’s students want, and our work to promote that message is clearly getting through.”

Launched early last spring, the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan maps out a multiyear approach aimed at creating a sustainable enrollment at NIU while respecting the university’s mission and values. It includes an Accountability Plan that outlines a detailed list of dozens of tactics and activities designed to boost enrollment and retention.

Projections created as part of that plan closely predicted this year’s enrollment decline, which is largely attributed to the fact that graduating classes are still far exceeding the size of incoming classes. If projections hold true, enrollment for next year should be about the same as this year and then start trending upwards in fall of 2021.

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