After an enrollment decrease of 322 students, Chancellor Rita Cheng said a drop in students is to be expected in the spring semester.
The Daily Egyptian obtained the 10-day enrollment figures, which were released Tuesday with an overall 18,442 students registered at SIU. 12,039 are undergraduates — 256 less than last spring.
“Every spring our enrollment is smaller than fall enrollment,” Cheng said. “That’s because students graduate in December and we’re a traditional institution so we have very few students who start in January.”
The university’s enrollment is at the lowest it has been in 37 years.
Provost John Nicklow said there usually is not a lot of change in enrollment in the spring semester because the bulk of new students arrive in the fall. Despite the lower numbers, Nicklow said some departments have seen increases.
“There are some real positive signs in the numbers that I’ve seen yesterday, and those will all be released next week,” he said.
Considering the lower enrollment in the fall semester, Cheng said, the university was expected to have a decrease in 360 students this semester.
“We have turned the number into a positive with 38 more students than we expected to have,” she said.
The fall 2011 10-day enrollment was at 19,817 students — 220 students less than the previous year. Cheng said the decreased overall enrollment is from recent consecutive years of enrollment decline.
“We’re graduating seniors with a bigger group than the new people coming in, so we’ve got a couple more years of having a historical smaller class come through,” she said.
The College of Business has 105 fewer students, and 95 of those students were continuing. While the College of Education and Human Services had a decrease of 76 students from last spring, the College of Liberal Arts has 17 fewer transfer students from last year. The amount of pre-major students dropped by 56 continuing students. However, some of those 56 students could have declared a major instead of dropping.
Freshman enrollment increased from 85 students to 99, but sophomores decreased from 2,169 to 2,015 — a 154-student drop.
Cheng said she doesn’t think the decrease in enrollment was connected to the Faculty Association strike last semester.
“Did it have a negative impact in counter to what we are trying to do in getting a positive message out? Yeah, during that time it did,” she said. “It was really unfortunate that we were working so hard to communicate the strong academics and at the same time we had all this turmoil on campus.”
Cheng said colleges that have seen student increases, however, are areas where faculty participated in the strike, so it didn’t seem to affect their enrollment.
International students had an increase of 77 students, and the College of Agricultural Sciences had an enrollment growth of 14. The College of Applied Sciences and Arts had an increase from 214 to 227 students and the College of Science grew by 83 students.
Cheng said the new branding and marketing by the university has helped to gain attention to the institution. She said research showed that people either didn’t know about SIU and its strong programs or had a negative perception about the campus.
“We have a lot of work to do to convince people it’s a great university,” she said. “Once they get here they realize it is.”