Enrollment down 9 percent from last fall

Debby Hernandez, Administration Editor

Eastern’s enrollment declined this fall semester by 862 students, which is about a nine percent decrease from last fall’s enrollment.

A total of 8,913 students are currently enrolled, compared to last year’s 9,775 graduate and undergraduate students.

Blair Lord, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said one of the factors affecting low enrollment is a decline of students interested in the teaching preparation programs, which Eastern has heavily depended on.

“At one point, teacher prep counted for almost 40 percent of our undergraduate students,” Lord said. 

According to the university press release, the number of Illinois high school graduates was projected to fall by 6 percent. 

While Eastern experienced a slight increase in incoming freshman last year, breaking a five-year trend, incoming freshman numbers are once again down. 

In fall 2014, numbers are down to 1,129 incoming freshman.

In 2013 the number of incoming freshman went up to 1,311 from 1,279 in fall 2012. 

Lord said expectations were high during the recruiting season.

 “We were optimistic that new student enrollment would look more favorable,” he said.

The number of overall freshman this year is 1,693 compared to last year’s total of 1,941, making it a decrease of 248.

 However, Lord said attitudes changed toward the end of the spring semester.

“Our expectations are pretty much what we now see here,” he said.

This year, Eastern is down 66 sophomores, 149 juniors and 236 seniors. 

Additionally, the number of new transfer students is down by 50, while the number of graduate students is down by 155.

According to the press release, state community college enrollment has declined by 9 percent. 

A decrease in students attending community college has affected the number of transferable students, Lord said.

Lord said initiatives such as using financial aid to attract students have been used to help with enrollment.

However, efforts have been jeopardized because of competing institutions.

“We have diverted a lot of institutional resources towards financial aid, but so has everyone else,” he said. “Our ability to divert more is getting seriously stressed.”

Eastern had also hired an enrollment consultant, but has since decided not to continue the contract. 

The Noel-Levitz higher education consulting firm, which helps campuses with enrollment management and student success, advised Eastern on enrollment for three years.

Lord said university funding comes from state and tuition revenue, which in turn affects the university’s budget.

“We are dependent on tuition revenue, so if enrollment declines we have less tuition revenue to support the institution,” he said.

However, seeing an increase in enrollment will require time and patience, Lord said. 

“We believe it is important to our enrollment stabilize and start growing, and we believe that will happen,” Lord said. 

Debby Hernandez can be reachedat 581-2812 or [email protected].