Enrollment declines by 970 students

Overall enrollment has declined at SIU for the eighth consecutive year.

Numbers for the 10-day enrollment count released Tuesday state 18,847 students have enrolled at the university this fall — a 970-student decline from last year’s 19,817. The cause of the decline, Chancellor Rita Cheng said, includes factors such as smaller classes from previous years, a decline in transfer students and financial aid changes.

There was a decline in first-time on-campus entering undergraduate students from 2,344 in fall 2011 to 2,286 this fall, a 58-student change. Transfer student enrollment of 1,816 students also declined; it is down 260 from 2,076 in the fall of 2011.

Cheng said the overall decline includes a drop of 870 undergraduates and 100 graduates.

The release states first-time entering undergraduates is up by 58 students from two years ago, as well as an increase in new freshmen and a 16-percent increase in enrollment of international undergraduates.

Cheng said a 13-percent drop  in first-time student enrollment between 2009 and 2010 is one cause of an overall enrollment decline because those classes would be juniors and seniors now.

She said another factor into the enrollment decline is a drop in community college enrollment. She said she has been told there is a smaller number of transfer students state-wide.

“All those things, it’s a littler here, it’s a little there. It’s not one thing,” she said. “It’s a very difficult time for higher education, and we’re trying to grow enrollment during that time.”

Cheng said some students did not return this fall because they could not meet academic requirements, and some new students who were admitted chose not to enroll because they received a better financial aid package at another institution or chose to attend community college.

She also said some students did not return because they could not pay the holds on their bursar accounts.

“It’s going to be up and down here for a little while until we can figure out how to have the right amount of aid available to students,” Cheng said.

The release states the number of new first-time students increased in six of SIU’s eight colleges. The release also states the average high school class rank and average GPA among this year’s freshmen is up compared to both 2011 and 2010.

Overall enrollment, however, is down 1,772 students from 2004, which is the last year SIU saw an increase in enrollment.

Cheng said the university looks to improve enrollment by focusing on recruitment and retention, as well as improving financial offerings.

“We’re still hearing about reputation,” she said. “It makes people question about whether to come here, and when the finances are balanced against that, they’re choosing not to attend.”

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