Plans in place to boost enrollment

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

Despite challenges posed by the budget situation, initiatives and programs are being put in place to boost enrollment and encourage admitted students to choose Eastern.

Kara Hadley-Shakya, interim director of admissions, said May 1 is the deadline for incoming students to make deposits to Eastern. She said the current class is a little slower moving, similar to last year, but now freshman numbers are projected to go up.

Right now, Hadley-Shakya said, they have a rough idea of enrollment but it is still early in the cycle to pin down a number.

“Some years, you have students who are ahead of the game, last year we had people in May still deciding,” she said. “You even have people next week signing up for visits.”

A month ago, the Admissions Office received multiple calls and emails a day asking about the state of Eastern without an allocation because of the state budget impasse, so they are trying to spread the message that Eastern is not closing. They do this by sending out budget updates to prospective students, and have been addressing calls and emails right away.

“It has impacted all of the state universities, but it definitely did have an impact on our efforts,” Hadley-Shakya said. “Not getting our allocation will have an impact on our enrollment. To what degree, that’s to be said, but it’s unfortunate I think because we’ve worked really hard and we have a strong education for our students.”

Next fall on the 10th day, the Admissions Office will look at where the students who were admitted went if they did not go to Eastern.

“If we’re down, why are we down,” Hadley-Shakya said. “Did they go out of state? Private? I think we’ll see an uptick in that just because of the budget. It’s hard, because that’s something that’s out of our control.”

Hadley-Shakya said as a state university, one of Eastern’s goals for enrollment is access.

“Even in Illinois, the demographics of certain communities are growing, Making sure we’re being supportive of these communities and creating this access (is important),” Hadley-Shakya said.

She said the numbers for many demographics is growing, such as a record number of Latino students last year.

For Latino students, Admissions came up with ideas for initiatives with a committee called Sí Se Puede, which formed two years ago and is made up of students, faculty and staff from across campus who came together to look at the recruitment and retention of Latino students at Eastern.

One of these initiatives is using Latino ambassadors to recruit high school and transfer students in targeted schools to create in-depth Spanish publications, which are used in National Hispanic Fairs.

They collaborate with community organizations as well as people on campus and Admissions recently had its first Latino Admitted Student Day. Families could pick an English or Spanish version of the day where presentations, speakers and tour guides spoke in Spanish.

Admissions collaborated with many areas around campus for this Admitted Student Day, such as Minority Affairs, the Latin American Student Organization and faculty members.

“When you have that collaborative type of event, it really showcases what EIU’s about,” Hadley-Shakya said. “It was a full campus effort.”

Admitted Student Days have increased, with Future Panther Fridays, where prospective students meet with admissions counselor, financial aid counselors and get a tour.

Last year, 37 students were a part of this program. This year, it was over 60.

The budget for Admissions includes salaries for professional staff, recruiting in high schools and college fairs and events on campus.

“We use those funds as effectively as we can, but there’s always new recruitment strategies that we don’t always have money for,” Hadley-Shakya said.

As a result of lowering enrollment, some floors will have to be closed in certain residence halls.

Mark Hudson, director of housing and dining, said a couple of floors in Taylor, a couple of floors in Andrews and a floor in Thomas will be put off line in the fall.

After reviewing the number of floors they had open and the number people on each floor, Hudson felt they could consolidate their spaces further.

“It’s an enrollment reflection issue,” Hudson said. “As we’ve had lower enrollment, the number of people on campus reflects that as well.”

Floors were under-occupied; some that would normally have 45 students only had 25 living in them.

As a result of having fewer floors open, less Resident Assistants, Building Service Workers and utilities are needed.

Hudson said no one would lose their jobs; the positions will just not be re-filled when someone leaves.

He said the amount of money saved from closing these floors could be “tens of thousands” of dollars.

“It’s a full-time salary, its utilities,” Hudson said. “I would bet based on that.”

When floors have been taken off line, it is renovated.

“During the school year, we hope to do just that,” Hudson said. “Do some painting, do some other things. Help them be ready for the next year.”

If a larger number of people come in the fall than expected, floors will be opened for the new students.

When more students were enrolled, there have been times when no floors have been closed, Hudson said.

“When we don’t need as many spaces, it makes sense to use your space effectively with this process,” Hudson said.

Hudson said they use a projection of current occupancy and rooming contracts and enrollment numbers to estimate how many bed spaces will be needed and they make adjustments accordingly.

“You want to have enough people to engage and have critical mass,” Hudson said.

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