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White, rural and suburban enrollment plummets at WIU

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* The Dispatch-Argus takes a deep dive into Western Illinois University enrollment, which has declined 35 percent over the past decade

Ten years ago, WIU had just 515 Hispanic and 887 black undergraduates. In the current academic year, WIU has about 850 Hispanic undergrads and 1,400 black undergrads — an increase of more than 60% for each group. […]

But the diversification of campus has accompanied white flight. While black and Hispanic enrollment has climbed, white enrollment has done the opposite, falling about 50% since fall 2008. […]

A review of data from the 62 Illinois counties deemed “rural” by the federal government shows that rural enrollment at WIU has fallen by 48% over the last decade.

But the rate of rural decline is surpassed by the rate of suburban decline. A large part of WIU’s decrease comes from the five “collar counties” surrounding Chicago, including Kane County west of Chicago (down 51%), north suburban Lake County (down 59%), and Chicago’s western neighbor DuPage County (down 63%).

In 2008, the collar counties sent 2,725 students to WIU. In 2018, that number had dropped to 1,190.

While rural areas experienced a 15 percent decline in high school graduates between 2006 and 2016, the suburbs saw a 7 percent increase.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - I Miss Bentohs - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 1:44 pm:

    When will know that it is time to close one of the State schools?

  2. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 1:50 pm:

    I suspect the aggressive recruiting efforts of University of Illinois-West (AKA University of Iowa) and University of Illinois-Way West (Iowa State) have something to do with it.

    The State of Iowa lost 5% of its population in the 1990s and has aggressively been recruiting new out-of-state college students ever since, in hopes that some of them will stick around after graduation.

    The acceptance rate at Iowa City is 80%; at Ames, 87%.

    Last year, 28% of the freshman class at Iowa was from Illinois. Iowa State doesn’t break it down by state, but only 55% of the student body is from Iowa.

    Illinois public universities would be wise to ramp up their in-state recruiting efforts.

  3. - Fav Human - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 1:53 pm:

    My girl went to Iowa State. Got free money for her good ACT. That, on TOP of it being cheaper than my Alma Mater, UIUC.

    I was floored by a state giving away free money. But its even cheaper if you live in Iowa..

  4. - Anon E Moose - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 1:55 pm:

    I wouldn’t live in Macomb if you paid me.

  5. - Bogey Golfer - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 1:59 pm:

    Unless you are a Criminal Justice major, WIU is not a destination place for most suburban kids. My son attend there 1 year - a long 3-1/2 drive.

  6. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:00 pm:

    Until we decide poaching Illinois students is something that needs to be stopped… Iowa and Iowa State will continue to give merit scholarships because the monies students spend on campus covers the tuition and fees that get them tere.

  7. - downstateR - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:03 pm:

    Yeah, why consider WIU? Carry on.

  8. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:04 pm:

    If my options were Iowa City, Ames or Macomb, Macomb would be my last choice.

  9. - Scamp640 - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:11 pm:

    @ I miss bentohs. Clever drive-by comment. What standard would you use to close a school? Current student enrollment? Most precipitous enrollment drop?

    @ Anon E Moose. Where do you live that is so awesome? By what standards are you using to evaluate the livability of place?

    The state has neglected and then purposefully damaged higher education in this state.

    Before you make an irrelevant comment, do some research on the role of higher education in economic development. Here, I will help:

  10. - Pick a Name - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:15 pm:

    With acceptance rates at Iowa and Iowa State at 80%+, if you have a pulse you are likely admitted.

    Those 2 schools would easily win out over Western.

  11. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:15 pm:

    –Yeah, why consider WIU? Carry on.–

    Posting a press release online does not a recruiting plan make.

    You gotta sell it.

  12. - downstateR - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:18 pm:


    Fair enough. I can remember the time when WIU never had to advertise or put much effort in recruiting. Hopefully, they’ll learn both fast.

  13. - Common Sense - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:19 pm:

    WIU has the top CPA exam pass rate in the state of all public Univeristies including UIUC. The Supply Chain Program was ranked in the top 30 programs in the country. Let’s not put down WIU.

    The state needs to focus on retaining students to prevent losing them to out of state. A new Loan/Grant forgiveness program for Illinois residents would help especially because we lose students that are offered more money to go out of state. If these grants are forgiven over 5 years for students who remain and work in Illinois, the program would partially or completely pay for itself (depending on the size of the grant) by reducing out migration and growing our tax base. If the current MAP program were turned into this format, even more money would be available to expand the program.

  14. - Rich Miller - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:20 pm:

    === I can remember the time when===

    Times change.

  15. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    ===A large part of WIU’s decrease comes from the five “collar counties” surrounding Chicago, including Kane County west of Chicago (down 51%), north suburban Lake County (down 59%), and Chicago’s western neighbor DuPage County (down 63%).===

    Merit scholarships (not loans) are huge for those in the collars who make too much for grants, don’t want to saddle kids with loans, but can get schools to pay to have their kids attend.

    Iowa and Iowa State go about pricing different, while Iowa State’s merit scholarships are a big plus…

    … and Iowa State Basketball and Iowa Football.

  16. - scamp reply - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    sorry scamp but my reply does not seem to be showing up

  17. - Common Sense - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:33 pm:

    -Merit scholarships (not loans) are huge for those in the collars-

    I agree. I think that is why we should offer them (and everyone) forgivable grants. We always talk about high school graduates that leave but some of our best and brightest leave after graduating from Illinois colleges. This incentives staying in Illinois for school and after graduation. Thus, we’d grow enrollment and the tax base.

  18. - Scamp640 - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:35 pm:

    @ Rich Miller. Yes times change. A governor came in and cut funding to higher education for two years. Where do the marketing dollars come from to market an institution that has been intentionally damaged.

    To counteract the damage done by four years of Rauner, I suggest that the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) engage in a statewide marketing plan to promote higher education in the state. Not just promote WIU, whose population decline is not the largest among the state public universities, but promote all universities in Illinois.

    WIU never had to really promote itself in the past. However, it never had to go two years without a budget in the past, either. So, the state, which damaged the universities, should try to undo the damage it did by helping to promote universities as part of a larger economic development strategy. Just a thought.

  19. - Teacher - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:44 pm:

    I am curious if how federal financial aid is distributed has any correlation. One of the appeals to WIU is that it was the most inexpensive 4-year school. Also, the requirements to get in were some of the more lenient.

    Federal aid is abundant and students do not care if they take on debt. This is compounded by colleges fighting to increase enrollment, this seems to have lowered standards for admissions especially at private institutions.

    With students having more choices, Macomb is not going to be the chosen destination.

  20. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:46 pm:

    ===students do not care if they take on debt.===

    LOL… yes, they do.

    (Enter Merit Scholarships)

  21. - Bobby Hill - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 3:03 pm:

    “…has accompanied white flight” sounds just like public school district across the state. Nothing new here.

  22. - Proud Leatherneck Alum - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 3:11 pm:

    WIU has not had a suburban board member for a long time until Gov. Pritzker’s appointments. You wonder why it has lost suburban focus? It is clueless on how to recruit suburban kids, gigantic community colleges like Harper, Triton or the College of DuPage which has 32,00 students. It used to recruit the Chicago Catholic League (haven’t seen Western in years) and doesn’t understand the new world of Charter Schools. It needs new leadership now or it will sadly die.

  23. - Bogey Golfer - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 3:18 pm:

    Just wondering how much the WIU Quad City campus is siphoning off students from that area instead of going to Macomb.

  24. - DuPage Bard - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 3:26 pm:

    Aggressive tactics by Iowa, Mizzou, Alabama, and others take over the dialogue. Those schools offer real money to kids not just low interest loans and in state tuition.

    You want to keep kids you have to recruit, make it worth their while and sell the plan. This blame Rauner deal isn’t going to change the trajectory of kids finding better deals in other states.

  25. - Pick a Name - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 3:54 pm:

    ISU has a great television ad with the director of admissions speaking, one of the best marketing pieces I have seen from a university.

    Enrollment has been decreasing for 12-15 years at the directional schools, due to lack of marketing, mismanagement and apathy.

  26. - Simple Simon - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 4:01 pm:

    I don’t think white flight is the right angle here, unless they have other information that is not presented. A drop in enrollment for one group and a corresponding rise in another is not causation. There are plenty of reasons for each trend, some of which are listed above, including where and how they recruit. Another is the chaos in some of the colleges that have high enrollment of African Americans, such as CSU and GSU, perhaps limiting the attractiveness of those options.

  27. - Teacher - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 4:02 pm:

    =LOL… yes, they do.

    (Enter Merit Scholarships)=

    Obviously, it is an overstatement that students don’t care about taking on debt, but for a lot of students it is secondary. Picking a college with better amenities is appealing to 18 year olds. Worry about paying for it later.

    WIU-QC is still considerably cheaper than a school like Augustana College even if student received $20,000 merit scholarship. Yet, Augie is not complaining about enrollment.

  28. - Nonbeleiver - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 4:09 pm:

    WIU is in a free fall. This is very bad for everyone associated with them and the local community.

    Many new Board members have been appointed By the Governor. Certainly a new President would be a high consideration. Yes, Rauner purposely sabotaged public universities as best he could.

    But the existing President is a a failure and must go. Even with good leadership this will be a hard journey back.

  29. - Nonbeleiver - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 4:11 pm:

    - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    ===A large part of WIU’s decrease comes from the five “collar counties” surrounding Chicago, including Kane County west of Chicago (down 51%), north suburban Lake County (down 59%), and Chicago’s western neighbor DuPage County (down 63%).===

    Merit scholarships (not loans) are huge for those in the collars who make too much for grants, don’t want to saddle kids with loans, but can get schools to pay to have their kids attend.

    Iowa and Iowa State go about pricing different, while Iowa State’s merit scholarships are a big plus…

    Solid analysis that often is overlooked.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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