Eastern’s enrollment continues decline

Cassie Buchman, Administration Editor



Eastern’s enrollment decreased this semester by 393 students from the 2014 fall semester.

A total of 8,520 students are enrolled, including 1,673 freshmen along with 1,295 sophomores, 1,791 juniors and 2,385 seniors.

The number of transfer students on campus decreased by 90 students from the fall 2014 semester.

While the total enrollment is down, the number of graduate students, minority students and incoming freshmen are up from this time last year.

Minority students now make up more than a quarter of the enrollment at Eastern. This year, the university has 20 American Indian/Alaskan Native students, 92 Asian students, 1,441 black students, 471 Hispanic students, four Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students, and 181 who identify with two or more races.

First-time freshman enrollment has increased by 2 percent to 1,085. The fall 2014 semester saw 1,129 incoming freshmen.

Director of Admissions Chris Dearth said admissions took an aggressive approach for recruiting new students to improve enrollment.

“It started with the use of data and the planning process, trying to be more strategic and making sure we’re using all of our resources in all of our areas,” Dearth said. “The other part was being aggressive in marketing and promoting EIU.”

The admissions office tried campus visits and saw a larger amount of prospective students on campus, and they communicated with students through the admissions process.

“A lot of hard work from a lot of areas helped us get to those numbers,” he said.

“Admissions has had a large response from the (Chicago) area, and are working on reaching out to local schools.”

Dearth just completed his first year as admissions director, and he said he had great expectations for his job.

“EIU is a very good institution,” he said. “A press release came out that talked about the U.S. News and World Report, and we are the No. 1 public regional university in Illinois, No. 5 public regional in the Midwest. This is a very good school.”

Dearth said he thinks more students, parents and counselors need to know about Eastern.

“I just think more students and counselors and parents need to know about us; I think we need to do a better job of communicating earlier in the process to students and become a first choice for more students,” Dearth said. “That’s only going to happen if we are aggressive and we are in the right places.”

Dearth said he was hoping for this kind of success, and the challenge is to build on it in 2016.

“What we’re looking for in 2016 is more visitors on campus, a better relationship in the local area,” he said. “We’re utilizing data more and just letting people know how good we are.”

Some challenges admissions will face is competitions from other schools, including schools outside of Illinois recruiting students, state support and the struggling economy.

“Families haven’t properly saved for college so they are looking for financial aid and scholarships,” Dearth said. “The budget hasn’t been released yet but we know there is probably a cut coming, but like I said EIU is a good school we just have to continue to let people know about it.”

Dearth said having happy current students will make prospective students want to come to Eastern more.

Because of the drop in transfer students, admissions is looking at ways to recruit them to Eastern’s campus.

“What we’ve realized is part of the demographic shift over the last couple years there’s been less students overall to go to college,” Dearth said. “So that affects the two year schools as well, so there’s not as many transfer students to recruit, and that plays into it.”

Dearth said Eastern is looking at reverse transfer and other programs that work for students in the area to bring students to Eastern.

“Lake Land College has a great agricultural program, and we’re looking to partner with them to bring students here for technology-based bachelor’s degrees or business-based bachelor’s degrees as well,” he said. “There’s a lot that can be done.”

Because incoming freshman enrollment is increasing, Dearth is hoping that this will create a trend in future years.

“The plan all along was to stabilize new student enrollment,” Dearth said. “We knew we lost some of those big classes in years past and we’ve graduated a lot of students. We’ve wanted to stabilize new student enrollment, which I think we’ve done, and the plan is to grow on that.”

He said the challenge is to use the techniques to continue the upward trend to bring enrollment back.

Even though total enrollment is down, Dearth said he thinks the upward trend in freshman enrollment could help fix that.

“If you look at the historical numbers, there were several large freshman classes and transfer classes that came in and this was again when the population was a little bit higher,” Dearth said. “A lot of them are moving out now and graduating, so it’s’ going to take us a couple of years to get even and move ahead, but we’re close.”


Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]