Staff Editorial: Visibility, publicity key to fighting enrollment woes

Eastern’s student body continues to hemorrhage as enrollment plummets year after year — with the latest census boasting a nearly 900 student drop off from last fall semester.  What these numbers should signal to the administration is that a drastic plan is needed — and whatever they were doing is no longer working.

Hailed for a number of years through word of mouth as “Illinois’s best kept secret,” Eastern now must deal with the reality that the word-of-mouth and reputation manner of gaining students no longer works.

An aggressive plan needs implementation — one that will reach all corners of Illinois.

Area high schools are a great way to begin to help increase enrollment, even with the university saying there is a six percent drop in high school graduates. Despite this perceived drop in high school numbers, places like Charleston High School are still prime real estate to sell Eastern. Because if you can’t sell to a high school in your own backyard, then you probably won’t have much luck elsewhere.

Making sure that the “best kept secret” comes out and is prominent in other areas as well should be next on the list. A spike in enrollment from other areas in Illinois can really help to turn the school around and reshape programs to better enhance the learning experience.

Instead, there is a lack of knowledge about the university. At every Board of Trustees meeting last semester, someone read off the number of articles that mentioned Eastern quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo leading up to the draft.

The reason for this was simple: Garoppolo’s connection to Eastern gave the university publicity, which helped make people (read: potential students) more aware of the school. The administration should use this tactic on all fronts: give the university more publicity to the state and surrounding states.

No longer can Eastern be a “best kept secret,” but instead it needs to a prominent figure in the state of Illinois. It needs to work as an institution that makes an aggressive effort to gain an enrollment. As a university, it should grow, or else wither and die.

And that puts Chris Dearth, the director of admissions, in a unique place. Coming in during the summer, Dearth had no control of how enrollment and recruitment was handled, but was instead given this hand to play.

After this semester, though, he can use new strategies and designs to help alleviate our enrollment woes. With an enrollment that is steadily dropping, hopefully there’s nowhere to go but up.

But there needs to be a change from the old way of handling admissions and recruitment. There needs to be some sort of turnaround. By reaching every part of Illinois as well as states like Missouri and Indiana, we can bring the enrollment up.

Eastern is “Illinois’s best kept secret” — that’s why we all came here. But it’s time that secret was let out so that our university does not continue to dwindle in the numbers.

The 862-student-drop from last semester should be a wake up call that maybe the way it’s been done before is a relic of the past. Looking to the future, a new, invigorated plan will help solve the enrollment decline.