Eastern enrollment decreases by almost 13 percent

Samuel Nusbaum , Administration Reporter

 Eastern’s overall enrollment has dropped by almost 13 percent, with the number of students decreasing from 8,520 to 7,415 students this year. 6,548 of these students are living on campus, and 867 students live off campus.

5,957 undergraduate students and 1,318 graduate students are enrolled at Eastern this year.

From freshmen to seniors, enrollment is down from the previous year.

Currently 1,251 freshmen are at Eastern, down from 1,673 last year.

Sophomores number 1,073 this year compared 1,295 last year.

1,447 juniors are enrolled this year where there used to be 1,791, and 2,138 seniors are at Eastern compared to 2,385 last year.

Only the graduate and international student numbers saw increases this semester.

Currently 1,458 graduate students are enrolled now compared to 1,318 from last year, a 10.6 percent increase.

The number of international students went up by 48.8 percent with 433 students when there were 291 last year.

The average ACT score of the incoming freshman class is a 21.34, and the high school GPA is a 3.08.

Vicki Woodard, coordinator of public information, said there was a lot of speculation about the numbers prior to the tenth day, with estimates all over the board.

She said some people guessed the enrollment numbers would be much lower than what was released Thursday morning.

“I think a lot of that was caused by incorrect reporting,” Woodard said.

Rumors being spread around on social media concerned with how the university would be able to operate did not help, Woodard said.

Woodard said she is optimistic about the university’s potential recovery, adding that she believes enrollment numbers will grow even after Eastern was thrown off course by the state budget impasse.

Kelly Miller, who started as admissions director in July, said the enrollment numbers she was initially hearing were way lower than what was released Thursday morning.

To combat these lower numbers, Miller said the university has a plan in place including the hiring of two new admissions counselors.

“Statistics tell you that personal outreach is key to increasing enrollment,” Miller said.

Miller said one of the admissions counselors will focus on transfer students, and the other will focus on freshmen.

The admissions counselors will answer prospective student’s questions and be the first person they contact.

Other things include name buying, a process where universities buy the names of students who have just taken the ACT, which are then sent to the university.

Miller said the admissions office will target student they know yield well, including honors students and students with interests Eastern is known for such as student volunteerism.

Eastern holds many conferences over the summer and during the year like the state track competition, which brings prospective students onto campus.

Many people have come forward asking to help with enrollment, from current students to alumni and retirees. Miller said retirees are offering to direct traffic and be the smiling face people see when they first come to campus.

Students are offering to talk about Eastern and all it has to offer when they go home.

“Go back to your high school and tell your story,” Miller said.

Though Miller said she is not one to place blame around, but part of the responsibility for the low enrollment lies with the state.

She said the Illinois government did not help with funding aid, such as Monetary Awards Program grants, which sent the wrong message to students.

Miller has met with high school guidance counselors who expressed their own concerns to her.

“What all of them said is ‘I have families concerned to send their students to an in-state school because the state isn’t supporting higher education,” Miller said.

Her response to them is Eastern will take care of the students and make sure they get a degree and get out into the world.

An example she gave of Eastern taking care of their students is when the school funded MAP grants.

Last week, Miller was told she had a high-pressure position, a statement she disagrees with.

“We have a great product to sell. We talked to our alumni. Alumni had a great experience here. They have fantastic jobs now and are giving back. My own daughter transferred here this fall. I believe in what we do here and how we serve students here and how we change student’s lives,” she said.

 

Samuel Nusbaum can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]