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SIUC chancellor looks on the bright side

Thursday, Sep 5, 2019

* We talked a bit about Southern Illinois University’s enrollment drop yesterday. SIUC Chancellor John Dunn wrote about it as well. Here’s an excerpt

Our official fall 2019 enrollment is 11,695, down 8.75 percent. You may be wondering why a decline might be considered positive, but there are a lot of details underneath the overall total that signal a change in direction.

Let’s start with retention. Our freshman to sophomore retention rate, reflecting the percentage of last year’s first-time freshmen who returned this fall, is 75 percent. Consider that it was 71 percent last year and 67 percent the year before. This is news to celebrate, as retention is as critical to our enrollment as recruitment.

Looking at the freshman class, our average ACT score has risen to 24.30, up from last year’s more than 20-year record of 23.65. We are continuing to attract strong students who will find success at SIU. At the same time, we continue to weigh every applicant’s potential carefully as we know that grades and test scores don’t tell the full story.

The number of transfer students was relatively flat at 1,268, increasing by 7 students – or less than 1 percent. This is the result of outstanding efforts to connect with our community college partners and identify pathways for our transfer students.

And while the number of first-time students has declined fewer than 100 students to 1,037, or 8.47 percent, this follows decreases of 24 and 20 percent the previous two years. New programs in nursing, business analytics and other areas will help close this gap in the future. We are heading in the right direction.

Graduate enrollment is also relatively flat at 2,683, down 26 students or just under 1 percent. Last year it was down 8.29 percent.

International enrollment is down 13.9 percent, which is not unexpected given policy changes both in the United States and abroad. While some of this is out of our control, we are working diligently on international recruitment.

While helping out at the SIU tent at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, I had the opportunity to talk with a visitor: Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. He offered some wisdom on the challenges of turning around the state, noting that it’s a lot faster to go downhill than it is to climb back up.

This is true for SIU Carbondale, as well. I note that we had predicted this enrollment decline not only because we had a large graduating class last spring followed by the smaller classes that are still in the pipeline, but also because it will take time to change strategies and perceptions, some of which are tied to the state budget impasse.

Every one of us has a part to play, whether you are in the classroom, maintaining our facilities and beautiful campus, supporting students as they make decisions about classes or campus life, or helping tell our positive story within the larger community. Every single interaction you have with a current or prospective student has the potential to make a difference. Remember my motto: “It’s personal.”

If nothing else, it’s a refreshing attitude.

(Hat tip: Ted Cox)

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - northernwatersports - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 11:03 am:

    Simple, clear, concise and reasoned.
    I agree fully. We are moving forward again.

  2. - City Zen - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 11:20 am:

    SIUC needs to embrace their roots: parties and street bagels.

    Halloween is Everyday.

  3. - Huh? - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 11:34 am:

    They are trying to get the party school reputation back with the BEER scholarship.

  4. - Rogermortimer - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    A focus on retention and 4 year grad rates is the way forward, even if there is a reduction in enrollment. Tough to do, but college is way too expensive today to do anything other than demonstrate actual value. The decline of public universities in Illinois is a complicated story, but it has hurt the state.

  5. - ConcernedAlumni - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 12:52 pm:

    Nothing’s changed. Enrollment keeps dropping. Do some digging…go back and look at each of the university news releases issued each fall concerning enrollment. University spin-meisters have to work overtime to find positive nuggets each year; sometime is rather bizzare…other times comical. Meanwhile, enrollment keeps dropping and bleeding hasn’t stopped.

  6. - Bertrum Cates - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 1:11 pm:

    The impasse’s impact still has repercussions. SIU, and Carbondale in particular, have not been allowed to succeed in the modern environment. It is even harder to clean up when there are internal forces trying to take what is left.

  7. - Whatever - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 1:44 pm:

    The higher retention rate does not make up for the drop in new students - retaining 75% of last year’s new students (over 12,800, if 11,695 is an 8.75% drop) means over 9,600 were retained. Even retaining 80% of this year’s 11,695 newbies would still be only 9,356.

  8. - Not buying it - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 1:47 pm:

    =It is even harder to clean up when there are internal forces trying to take what is left.=

    To which internal forces are you referring? It seems clear that SIUC has been taking more than its fair share of state funding to the SIU system for years.

  9. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 2:08 pm:

    There were not 11,695 newbies.
    That’s total enrollment.
    And you can’t keep them all.
    Some of them graduate.
    Even in Carbondale.

  10. - Scamp640 - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    @ Roger Mortimer. The decline of public higher education in Illinois is NOT a complicated story. Public support for state higher education peaked in 2002. It has been downhill ever since. Then, Rauner knee-capped the universities by withholding funding for two years. I used 48 words to explain why this happened.

  11. - Anonanonsir - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 2:48 pm:

    He’s identified a few positives and has a constructive attitude. But the 44% drop in first-time students over three years is probably the headline number.
    If costs are a big issue, as a few commenters said yesterday, then SIUE would have an advantage for commuters because of its location. And of course it would be nice to see more thrift in state universities.
    SIUC has been around for a century and a half and it’s very likely staying put, so we can hope that Dunn’s optimism has a solid foundation.

  12. - Scamp640 - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 3:15 pm:

    @ Anonanonsir. What do you mean that “it would be nice to see more thrift in state universities”? What cuts would you make? Do you realize that Illinois public universities have taken cuts each year since 2002? Here is the IBHE data to funding cuts to Illinois Universities:

  13. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 3:15 pm:

    My child transferred to SIUC this fall. From our first visit in March, to orientation and registration this summer, to move in (all dorm rooms are singles this year), to the financial aid (good grades, transfer, and alumni child). The process was seamless, easy to navigate, and worked out quite well. If they can continue to do this, word will get out and enrollment will recover.

  14. - Cornish - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 3:49 pm:

    Ouch! Only 1,037 freshmen this year? My daughter’s high school has a bigger freshmen class.

    Hope SIUC can it around, but it’s not looking good with a declining pool of potential freshmen in the future.

  15. - Saluki Mom - Thursday, Sep 5, 19 @ 3:56 pm:

    My daughter is starting her senior year at SIUC this year. She’s in a tiny program that has terrific faculty and facilities. She’s had opportunities there that I don’t think she’d have found at larger institutions. They’re doing great stuff in Carbondale, despite the ongoing budget issues. I’m a U of I grad (twice) but I send donations to Carbondale. Their need is a lot greater.

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