Comparisons between schools happen in every facet of life — athletics, accommodations, classes and even enrollment. But with enrollment, when looking at the figures, what people need to realize is that each school operates on its own playing field.
When looking at each university, several factors need to be taken into account, or else the figures will mean nothing. Of course the University of Illinois will have more students than Eastern — the fact is students choose their school based on the surrounding town or city. Obviously a bigger city and bigger school will attract more students.
Likewise, the city of Edwardsville has a population of roughly 24,000 as of the last census. Charleston contains roughly 21,000 people. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Eastern — town-wise — are similar enough to draw comparisons.
The idea that every state school’s enrollment can be quantified and we should be right where U of I or Northern Illinois are is ludicrous.
Eastern thrived for quite a few years—primarily around the 1970s — by only having roughly 6,000 students. However, with growing technology and growing resources, it has become necessary for more students.
But our numbers will never reach U of I numbers — at least not without a sudden surge in attention. But at the same time, Eastern is not a school that needs U of I numbers in order to survive.
While Eastern’s numbers are low — there’s no doubt about that — it shouldn’t be made to look like it needs to compete with Northern Illinois or Southern Illinois-Carbondale. Instead, it is more accurately portrayed next to SIUE and Western Illinois.
Macomb’s population is at nearly 20,000 people, making it more comparable to Charleston.
So when Western boasts an enrollment of 11,458 for 2014, it should be compared to Eastern’s 2014 enrollment of 8,913. It still shows that Eastern’s enrollment is down — especially from last year’s fall enrollment of 9,775 — it is closer in size to Western. It puts things in perspective when looking at each of the schools by which playing field they’re on relative to Eastern.
Comparing Eastern to a Big 10 university is not the positive outlook for Eastern, but instead it should be taken with a grain of salt and realization it is a state school in Illinois — but an outlier.
Eastern’s enrollment is low, no question about it, but without looking at the bigger picture and realizing that even though the numbers will be inevitably compared, it is a bleak portrait of Eastern’s condition.